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Galaxies, stars and planets

Galaxies, stars and planets is one of a series of short, five month 10-credit modules introducing fascinating topics in science. It covers the exploration of our Solar System; the discovery of planets orbiting other stars; the birth, life and violent death of stars; and the creation of the Universe itself. With a choice of start dates it enables you to try out an area of study before you commit yourself to a longer module, or top up your knowledge and skills between longer modules. 

Standalone study only

This module is available for standalone study only. The credits from this module cannot be counted towards an OU qualification.

Module

Module code
S177
Credits
10
Study level
OU SCQF FHEQ
1 7 4
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

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What you will study

Have you ever gazed up into the sky and wondered what lies in the distant reaches of space? This module explores the fascinating science behind the galaxies, stars and planets of the Universe. It will develop your understanding of a wide range of topics in astronomy, with sections on the Sun, planets, stars, extraterrestrial life, galaxies and the origin and evolution of the Universe.

This module explains how the Sun gets its energy and how astronomers are able to observe the Sun, even into its interior. You will be introduced to the planets, their satellites and the minor bodies of the solar system. You will also meet exoplanets, i.e. planets around other stars. The latest ideas about the life cycle of stars, from birth to death, and the cosmic re-cycling of their components are also explored.

You will also meet ideas about the expanding Universe, dark matter, dark energy, the large-scale structure of the Universe and what we know about the very early Universe, shortly after the 'Big Bang'. Many of these topics are at the cutting edge of our understanding but are dealt with in an approachable and (largely) non-mathematical way.

Finally, life beyond the Earth is considered, including its requirements and possible habitats, and the likelihood of alien life – including intelligent life.

Through a series of structured activities you will learn to use the Aladin Sky Atlas (Aladin) program on a PC for interpreting and manipulating astronomical images from space telescopes and ground-based telescopes. Aladin is a leading astronomical software package that is used by professional astronomers and will help you make the transition from just appreciating beautiful astronomical images to also doing quantitative science.

If you are a beginner in science, you will find that the study book introduces new scientific ideas as you need them, progressively developing more sophisticated concepts and skills. If you are an amateur astronomer, or have read popular books on astronomy, you will find that the module develops your understanding and introduces areas of astronomy that you have not met before.

The module is based on a specially written Open University (OU) study book and a website. The website gives you access to astronomical images from some of the biggest telescopes on Earth and in space. The study book provides questions and some activities to help you to test your understanding. You can also use these for self-assessment as you progress through the module. A number of activities will only be presented online via the website.

Teaching and assessment

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your end-of-module assessment (EMA).

You have to submit the single piece of written work for assessment after 21 weeks. There will be no other opportunity to complete the module.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2014 and April 2015 when it will be available for the last time.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

End-of-module assessment
No residential school


Entry

Please note: this module is only available for standalone study. You cannot count the credits you gain from the module towards any current OU qualification. It may be possible, however, to count the credits gained towards a qualification if you are already studying with us and have declared your qualification intention before September 2012 – see your qualification description in StudentHome for details.

This module is for people who are new to the subject area. You need little more than an interest in astronomy and the motivation to discover more about it.

Mathematically, you need only to be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide simple numbers. The structured teaching will take you to a level at which you are happy to use maths as a tool in a range of scientific contexts. A maths skills ebook is provided to help you with, for example, fractions, percentages, reading graphs and tables, and scientific units as required by the module.

To cope with the written material you should be able to read and understand written English of a style and complexity characteristic of a professional magazine or quality newspaper, and you should be able to communicate your thoughts clearly and comprehensibly in a written format.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Register

Start End England fee Register
04 Oct 2014 See description £439.00

Registration closes 25/09/14 (places subject to availability)

Register

You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

11 Apr 2015 See description £439.00

Registration closes 02/04/15 (places subject to availability)

Register

You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

This module is expected to start for the last time in April 2015.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later - OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

For more information about employer sponsorship speak to an adviser or request a call back.

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. You may, for example wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or request a call back.


Note: Your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is based upon current details for  year 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015.
This information was provided on 28/07/2014.

What's included

Study book, study guide, online activities and a website.

You will need

A basic scientific calculator and access to a digital camera or scanner.

You may be required to draw diagrams or to annotate diagrams that you download, and then to use either a scanner or a digital camera to produce electronic versions of these diagrams for inclusion in your assessment. Alternatively creating diagrams electronically will be acceptable.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

If you have a disability

A proportion of the module is delivered online so you will have to make considerable use of a computer and the internet. If you have severely impaired sight you may not be able to achieve some of the module learning outcomes, as the module relies heavily on coloured images, video sequences and visual identification.

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.