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Certificate in Astronomy and Planetary Science - Learning outcomes

Educational aims

Through studying these modules you will learn about the structure, origin and evolution of planetary bodies in our solar system; stars, galaxies and the Universe as a whole; how and why life arose on Earth, and how likely it is that life has arisen elsewhere in the Solar System or beyond.

Learning outcomes

The programme provides opportunities for you to develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding, qualities, skills and other attributes in the following areas.

Knowledge and understanding

On completion of this qualification, you will have a knowledge and understanding of:

  • the main observational and modelled characteristics of stars, the interstellar medium, galaxies and the Universe on large scales
  • the basic physical processes that determine the characteristics of stars, the interstellar medium and galaxies, and that might have determined the evolution of the Universe on the large scales
  • the basic principles underlying the techniques and instruments that have been used to explore the cosmos
  • the structure of the Solar System, the bodies within it, and the physical and chemical processes operating to sculpt their surfaces and control their atmospheres
  • why Mars and Europa are the best candidates in the Solar System for extraterrestrial life (past or present) and how they can be investigated to see whether they have or have had biospheres
  • the nature, origin and methods for detecting life and potential habitats for life in the Solar System and beyond.

Cognitive skills

On completion of this qualification, you will be able to:

  • understand and use scientific concepts and information, and apply these concepts and information in relevant situations, including unfamiliar situations
  • grasp abstract physical concepts
  • absorb information presented in a variety of forms: text, numerical, diagrammatic, web pages and multimedia/software packages.

Practical and/or professional skills

On completion of this qualification, you will be able to:

  • complete a short project, based on your own observations of celestial bodies
  • retrieve and analyse astronomy and planetary science data from sources on the world wide web, and use computer spreadsheets to investigate some of the theoretical ideas that are presented in the modules.

Key skills

On completion of this qualification, you will be able to demonstrate the following skills:

  • Communication: writing skills – write short, written arguments that are coherent and clear, and a scientific report on project work. Write a short article on a scientific topic aimed at a general audience
  • Information Technology: Use spreadsheets to analyse and present observational data. Use spreadsheets to investigate simple mathematical behaviour. Use image analysis software to extract data from astronomical images
  • Information Literacy: Use the web to find information related to topics of astronomical interest. Use astronomical databases on the internet
  • Application of Number: Apply arithmetic, simple algebra, and simple graphical methods to solving a scientific problem
  • Improving your own learning and performance.

Teaching, learning and assessment methods

Knowledge, understanding and application skills, as well as cognitive (thinking) skills are mainly acquired from the texts, with supporting material from web-based information sources. Basic principles underlying techniques and instruments are taught mainly via activities, which will have a strong computer-based component. The skills to improve your own learning and performance are not taught explicitly, but developed by an online discussion forum. Self-testing is encouraged through in-text questions.

Assessment is by tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) and an end-of-module examination.