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Astrophysics

If you are interested in using quantitative physical methods to understand the building blocks of the Universe, and already have a good background in OU level 2 maths, physics and astronomy, then this is the module for you. This module focuses on the astrophysics of stars and exoplanets – examining their properties, structure, evolution and the physical processes that occur within them. The OU’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and internet-based resources are used throughout the module. You’ll experience real, collaborative astrophysical research, online with a small group of other students, to acquire, reduce, analyse and interpret data.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

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

Module code
S382
Credits
30
Study level
OU SCQF FHEQ
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

Student Reviews

“S382 is an excellent choice for those interested in astronomy and physics. The module comprises of two books and a...”
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“This course comes full of promise and it is easy to be taken in by the excitement of the cutting...”
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“The astrophysical data analysis project gives an experience akin to working in a collaborative astrophysics research project. Team working and...”
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What you will study

This is a module that builds on skills and concepts you will have developed by studying maths, physics and astronomy at a level equivalent to OU level 2 modules. Although it requires a slightly lower level of mathematics than other OU level 3 physics and astronomy modules, it builds on a broader range of OU level 2 material.

Part 1, Stellar Evolution and Nucleosynthesis, is based around a book which allows you to investigate the properties of stars at different stages of their evolution – how they form, what happens to them as they age, and what becomes of them when they die. You will also explore the physical processes that sustain the energy output of stars during each stage of their evolution and drive the progression from one stage to the next, as well as the relationship between different stages of stellar evolution and the production of the chemical elements. Your study of this part will allow you to develop basic concepts of hydrodynamics, thermodynamics, plasma physics, quantum physics and nuclear physics.

Part 2, Astrophysical Data Analysis, is rather different from a conventional text. It is a practical component that you study at home, linked via the internet with a small group of students with whom you will work collaboratively on a project involving astrophysical data analysis and interpretation. You will acquire data either from the OU’s robotic telescope (PIRATE) or from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) archive. In the first case you will devise a project based around photometric lightcurves of newly discovered variable stars, while in the second case you will devise a project concerning optical spectroscopy of previously unstudied quasars. In either case, your group will acquire, reduce, analyse and interpret a unique dataset before presenting a wiki on your findings. You will record your individual project activities in a series of Progress Reports and will contribute to the final group wiki report. Note: although you may express a preference for either the PIRATE version of the project or the SDSS version of the project, we cannot guarantee that you will be allocated the one you prefer. A broadband internet connection is recommended for this project and is particularly important for the PIRATE version where you will be downloading and working with a large volume of data.

Part 3, Transiting Exoplanets, is based around a book which allows you to explore the methods used in the detection and characterisation of exoplanets, and their physical properties. In 1995 the first planet around a main sequence star other than the Sun was discovered. Since then hundreds of exoplanets have been found, creating one of the most exciting and fast moving research fields in astrophysics. This part focuses on the transiting exoplanets because these are the only planets outside our own solar system with measured sizes. You will explore the methods used to determine the atmospheric properties of transiting exoplanets, to measure the planetary orbit’s alignment with the stellar spin, and to observe the effects of the intense irradiation suffered by some of these planets. You will discover what these measurements imply for reinvigorated theories of planet formation and evolution, and will examines the question ‘is life unique to Earth?’ in the context of exoplanet research.

Outside the UK

This module is suitable for study outside the UK.

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 etutorials 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.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

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.

You will, however, be granted the option of submitting on paper if typesetting electronically or merging scanned images of your answers to produce an electronic TMA would take you an unacceptably long time.

There will be a mixture of online interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs) and short tutor-marked assignments (TMAs), with a total workload equivalent of three full TMAs.

Both the iCMAs and TMAs will focus strongly on learning through practice rather than on assessment. The feedback you receive on your answers will help you to improve your knowledge and understanding of the study material and to develop important skills associated with the module. The feedback on the iCMAs will be instantaneous and hints will be given so that you can refine any incorrect answers. Although your scores on all these assignments will not contribute directly to your module grade, they form an essential part of the learning process and you will be required to submit a proportion of them to complete the module.

Your overall module grade will be based on two examinable components. The first is a portfolio of work comprising your individual Progress Reports and the collaborative group wiki for Part 2 of the module which you submit at the end of this study period. The other is an end-of-module written examination based on Parts 1 and 3.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in February 2014. We expect it to be available again in October 2014. We then expect it to be available, once a year, in October.

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:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
5 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
Examination
No residential school


Entry

This is an OU level 3 module that builds on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at OU levels 1 and 2. It is intended for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject at this level.

The module is designed to follow Astronomy (S282), Planetary science and the search for life (S283), Practical science: physics and astronomy (SXP288) and Mathematical methods (MST224). The following parts of these modules are especially important:

•       differentiation and integration (MST224)

•       stellar structure and evolution (S282)

•       exoplanets (S283).

The parts of S282 relating to active galaxies are important as preparation for the SDSS version of the embedded project for this module. If you have studied one of the astronomy activities of SXP288 you will be better prepared for the PIRATE version.

Both versions of the embedded project require considerable use of IT resources, including downloading data from the web, extensive use of spreadsheets and other analysis software, and contributing to wikis and forums.

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 S382/S383? to help you to decide whether you already have the recommended background knowledge or experience to start the module or whether you need some extra preparation. This can be viewed or printed from the Are you ready for science? website. 

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

Preparatory work

As a result of taking the Are you ready for S382? test, you may find that you need to study a further module or modules before embarking on S382. If this is not possible, you may choose to spend time studying relevant background material. For this purpose we have produced a ‘Book 0’ for S382 (and the related module S383) entitled An introduction to astrophysics and cosmology , which you may download as a PDF. This document covers the recommended background knowledge and skills that we expect students to possess before embarking on S382. If you need to study all the maths, physics and astronomy background contained within this Book 0, we estimate it will require about 40–60 hours of study. It is not a replacement for taking the appropriate OU level 2 modules, but it will serve to fill the gaps in your knowledge in many cases.

Register

Start End England fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015 £1316.00

Registration closes 11/09/14 (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.

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.

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 31/07/2014.

What's included

Module books, other printed materials, DVD-ROM, website.

You will need

Basic scientific calculator.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module. It includes online activities – you can access using a web browser – and some module software provided on disk.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer running Windows since 2008 you should have no problems completing the computer-based activities.
  • A netbook, tablet or other mobile device is not suitable for this module – check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you have an Apple Mac or Linux computer – please note that you can only use it for this module by running Windows on it using Boot Camp or a similar dual-boot system.

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

If you have a disability

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 (mathematical materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

Part 2 of the module requires you to work collaboratively with a small group of other students, communicating with each other using internet tools. Successful completion of the learning outcomes for this module requires you to participate fully in these collaborative activities.

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.