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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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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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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 extensive 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 examination. However, you will also need to achieve a certain standard in your TMAs in order to pass the module.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015.  We expect it to be available once a year.  


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:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Computer-marked assignment (CMA)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 2 module and you need to have a good knowledge of the subject area, 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 physics and mathematics from our OU level 1 modules Exploring science (S104) or Essential mathematics 1 (MST124).

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. This can be viewed as an interactive program for PC or printed as a PDF.

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


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £1350.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


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 October 2018.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, 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 you register.

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.

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 ten 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.  

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. 

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 that is 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 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 04/08/2015.

What's included

Module books, other printed materials and website.

You will need

A scientific calculator.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available. For this module you will also need to install software provided by the OU on a disk or USB stick.

A Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system is suitable for this module. You will be required to install Microsoft Windows specific software.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

If you have impaired sight you might experience difficulties with some of the questions used for assessment and some of the project work. You might also not be able to make full use of the video or the computer-based resources. If in certain cases these cannot be adapted appropriately for your needs the use of a sighted assistant to assist your work may be appropriate. You can get more advice from an adviser.

The study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical, scientific, foreign language or graphic materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Written transcripts are available for the audio-visual material.

You will need to spend considerable amounts of time using a personal computer and the internet. 

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.