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This module considers the structure, origin and evolution of stars, galaxies and the Universe as a whole, asking questions such as: How are stars born, and what happens when they die? How do galaxies form, and how do we know that the universe began in a ‘big bang’? This introduction to astronomy investigates the stars and their life cycles, galaxies and quasars, and the origin and evolution of the Universe – and how it might continue to evolve in the future. You’ll make use of computer-based resources and can undertake some straightforward project work, based on your observations of the sky. 

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

Student Reviews

Overall a good course. I took S282 as the first part of S10 and my first OU module as it...
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This course was excellent, providing a massive amount of interesting grounding information on astronomy and cosmology. The cosmology in book...
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What you will study

A background in science and a modest amount of mathematics is required for this module. It is divided into two parts, each consisting of a full-colour book and web-based material. Project work and web-based activities support and extend these two parts.

The sun and stars 
We start with the sun – our star – and then explore the properties of other stars. You will see that there is an astonishing range of stellar types, and that our sun, though essential for our existence, is an unremarkable member of the stellar menagerie that encompasses massive blue stars, brown dwarfs, red giants, supergiants and white dwarfs. You will learn how the various types of star are born, how they live powered by nuclear reactions, and how they die, including the spectacular death of supergiants in supernovae – perhaps leaving behind a pulsar, perhaps even a black hole. Throughout this first part the relationship between stars and the interstellar medium is explored and you will see how the stars and interstellar gas are linked together in a process of cosmic recycling.

The activities supporting this first part include practical project work, mostly based on observations of celestial objects that you will make. All the projects are straightforward – no experience is required – and all can be done in an urban environment with the naked eye. There are also some computer and web-based activities. So, for example, you will retrieve and analyse astronomical data from sources on the internet, and use computer spreadsheets to investigate some of the theoretical ideas that are presented in the module. You will also use the internet as a source of up-to-date information about astronomical observatories, space missions and experiments.

Galaxies and cosmology
The sun is one of a hundred thousand million stars that inhabit our galaxy – the Milky Way. You will find out how astronomers study the structure and content of our galaxy before moving on to consider other types of galaxy. You will see that some of the most luminous objects in the Universe are active galaxies which probably contain supermassive black holes at their centres. You will consider current ideas about the formation and evolution of galaxies and the module discusses how such ideas will be tested by observations from new, space-based observatories. Moving on from individual galaxies, the module looks at large-scale structure and considers the evolution of the universe as a whole. You will review the evidence that supports the idea that the Universe began in a ‘big bang’, and you will see how ideas about the early universe are at the forefront of research in physics and cosmology. As in the first part, there is a range of associated activities.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. There will be a number of online tutorials that you can join and access via your computer. You are encouraged, but not obliged, to participate in these. You will also be able to participate in discussions through online forums.

If you are new to the OU, you will find that your tutor will be particularly concerned to help you with your study methods.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


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

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

The TMAs are designed to provide you with regular, targeted feedback in order to help you learn and to assess your own progress towards meeting the learning outcomes. You are required to send answers to your tutor in response to detailed questions and problems that address the various topics studied throughout the module.

Your final module result will be determined by the marks you achieve in your exam (75%) and one of the TMAs (25%). You'll need to achieve at least 30% in the exam, and a certain standard in the other TMAs, in order to pass the module. The examined TMA includes transferable skills that cannot be easily tested in an exam (scientific report writing, spreadsheet and communication skills).

Future availability

Astronomy (S282) starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019, when it will start for the last time. A new module, Astronomy (S284), will start for the first time in October 2020.


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

    Course work includes:

    4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    No residential school

    Course satisfaction survey

    See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 2 module and you need to have a basic knowledge of physics, obtained either through OU level 1 study, or by doing equivalent work at another university.

    The module is intended for a wide range of people, and with proper preparation it is suitable for all those who want to develop their understanding of astronomy: anyone who has a general interest, amateur astronomers, schoolteachers (at all levels) who want to use the enormous appeal of the subject matter to enhance their teaching of science.

    You are not expected to have any knowledge of astronomy, but we recommend that you do not attempt the module without a sound knowledge of pre-university physics and at least GCSE-level mathematics. These requirements are satisfied by our OU Level 1 modules Questions in science (S111), Essential mathematics 1 (MST124) and Physics and space (SM123).

    It is essential that you establish whether or not your background and experience give you a sound basis on which to tackle the module, since students who are appropriately prepared have the best chance of completing their studies successfully. The Science Faculty has produced a booklet Are You Ready For S282? to help you to decide whether you already have the recommended background knowledge or experience to start the module or whether you need a little extra preparation.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


    Start End England fee Register
    05 Oct 2019 Jun 2020 -

    Registration now closed

    October 2019 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a computer, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    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 monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

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

    Employer sponsorship

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

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module 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 module.  

    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, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

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

    For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time convenient to you.

    Please 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 valid for modules starting before 31 July 2020. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 16/09/2019.

    What's included

    Module books, tutor support and website delivering observational practical work and activities to support the text books.

    You will need

    A scientific calculator.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    • A desktop or laptop computer with Windows 7 or higher
    • The screen must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying S282 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.