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Astronomy & Planetary Science strand


Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Can I study astronomy & planetary science with the OU?

An OU astronomy & planetary science module can

  • introduce you to modern astronomy & planetary science
  • help you find your way around the night sky
  • give you the opportunity to carry out sophisticated practical astronomy & planetary science projects
  • develop an understanding of the nature of the Universe and the planets, star and galaxies.

If you simply want to indulge your childhood fascination, or build on your experience of backyard astronomy, or if you are academically-focused and want a degree for your future career - you will find there are appropriate OU modules and qualifications.

Our introductory modules require little more than basic arithmetic skills, and the modules will help you build up new skills to let you progress further as you wish. 

You can sample some of our modules at OpenLearn science and nature.

Modules and qualifications

The Open University offers a wide choice of astronomy & planetary science modules and qualifications - from introductory modules accessible to most people, right through to a choice of degrees that can take you on to professional work in this area.

The modules are classed as Level 1, 2 or 3, with introductory modules at Level 1 and advanced modules at Level 3. The amount of work involved is indicated by the number of credits allocated to the module - 30 or 60. An honours degree requires 360 credit points, and there are rules about the particular modules that can be included. 

Once you have passed a specified set of modules, you may be awarded one of the OU's astronomy & planetary science qualifications:

Other degree options are discussed later in this page.

Short astronomy & planetary science modules

An ideal way to sample the OU teaching sytle is to enrol on one of our popular introductory science short courses. The modules:

  • S177 Galaxies, stars and planets 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.
  • S151 Maths for Science explains mathematical techniques and provides examples for you to try for yourself.

are especially appropriate as they emphasise key concepts relevant for astronomy and planetary science.

The short module Galaxies, stars and planets is also available as a non-credit bearing less expensive option .

Introductory modules

S104 Exploring science is a broad science course, with substantial physical science content, that is the starting point for our BSc Natural Sciences degree.

Advanced modules

Several more advanced modules are available, mostly running over nine months, at Level 2 and Level 3. These are designed for people with some appropriate scientific and mathematical knowledge and skills, perhaps obtained from their OU studies. 

Other astronomy & planetary science modules are

If you already have a degree planned in a different subject area, you may be able to include one or more astronomy & planetary science modules as part of your free choice.

"An Introduction to Astrophysics and Cosmology" is a 240-page document which is likely to require between 40 and 60 hours of study, if you need to start it all. It was produced specifically to help students about to study S382 or S383 brush up on their Level 2 subject knowledge in astronomy, physics and mathematics, but parts of it are likely to be equally useful for students preparing to study SM358 or SMT359 too.

BSc degrees in physical science

Full details of all our qualifications and modules are given on the Study at the OU website

The diagram below illustrates a possible route for you to specialise in Astronomy & Planetary Science in our BSc Natural Sciences degree - this route maximizes the number of astronomy & Planetary science modules within the minimum number of credit points required to achieve an Honours degree. Please note that, from time to time, modules may be replaced or withdrawn.

Other degree options

The BSc Open degree may also be an appropriate choice if your interests span a wider field, or if you prefer not to study the more mathematical modules at Level 3.

More information

More information about planning a qualification is available at the Study at the OU website 'Planning your studies' on the home page. Please ensure that you check the 'Are you ready for?' material before registering for a module.