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The Cupola of the International Space Station and a docked Russian Progress spacecraft photo

Certificate in Astronomy and Planetary Science

This certificate covers basic astronomy and planetary science. You’ll study two broad themes of ‘Stars and Galaxies’ and ‘Multiwavelength Astronomy’. Learn how astronomers ‘measure’ the Universe – considering spectroscopy, imaging, and time-variability as observational tools. You’ll study the formation, evolution and rebirth of stars and galaxies through energetic processes, and learn about their constituents. Learn about the formation and evolution of the Solar System and other planetary systems. Consider how life arose on Earth, and whether life exists beyond Earth. You’ll look at planetary processes such as volcanism and impacts in the Solar System; the structure of planets and their atmospheres; and asteroids, comets and meteorites.

Key features of the course

  • Gain a good foundation in astronomy and planetary science.
  • Develop skills of reason and logic that are highly prized in the workplace.

Course Summary

+Shortlist Course



  • Qualification unique to The Open University.
  • Focus on a particular profession or subject area.
  • Study for interest or career development.
  • A wide range of subjects and levels.
Course 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.
How long it takes
Part time – 1 year
Time limit – 4 years
Study method
Distance learning

Course details

This certificate has one stage, comprising 60 credits.

Stage 1 (60 credits)

You’ll explore the structure, origin and evolution of stars, galaxies and the Universe, while making your own observations of the sky. You’ll also tackle fundamental questions about the Solar System and its formation; including how and why life began on Earth and the search for intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe.
You'll study both of the following:
Astronomy (S284)30
Planetary science and the search for life (S283)30

We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available modules – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which the University might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 17 March 2021.


We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. The Certificate of Astronomy and Planetary Science uses a variety of study materials and has the following elements:

  • studying online –modules have a mixture of printed and online material. Online learning resources may include websites, audio/video media clips, and interactive activities such as online quizzes
  • face-to-face workshops and/or online tutorials
  • using mathematical and scientific expressions, notations and associated techniques
  • using and/or producing diagrams and/or screenshots
  • practical work
  • finding external/third party material online
  • continuous and end-of-module assessment in the form of essays, short answer questions, and an examination
  • using feedback: continuous assessment involves receiving detailed feedback on your work from your tutor and using this feedback to improve your performance
  • engagement with learning and assessment within a pre-determined schedule or timetable – time management will be needed during your studies and the University will help you to develop these skills throughout your qualification
  • some modules may require you to use specialist software

All qualifications require you to complete learning and assessment activities within a required timescale and according to pre-determined deadlines. You will therefore need to manage your time effectively during your studies and the University will help you to develop this skill throughout your degree. Information on assessment will be available to you at the start of each module.

For more detailed information, see the Accessibility Statements on individual module descriptions. If you feel you may need additional support, visit Disability support to find more about what we offer.

Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment

This qualification develops your learning in four main areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Cognitive skills
  • Practical and professional skills
  • Key skills

The level and depth of your learning gradually increases as you work through the qualification. You’ll be supported throughout by the OU’s unique style of teaching and assessment – which includes a personal tutor to guide and comment on your work; top quality course texts; elearning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.

Read the detailed learning outcomes here

On completion

On successfully completing this course, we’ll award you our Certificate in Astronomy and Planetary Science.


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

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements to study this qualification. However, this module starts at OU level 2 – it’s essential you have adequate study skills, such as gained from OU level 1 study or equivalent, before you start. Having studied physics and maths to A-level standard and/or Physics and space (SM123) would significantly improve your readiness to start this certificate.

The booklets Are You Ready For S284? and Are You Ready For S283? will help you decide whether you already have the recommended background knowledge or experience to start the qualification or you need some extra preparation.

How much time do I need?

  • Most of our students study part time, completing 60 credits a year.
  • This will usually mean studying for 16–18 hours a week.

Find out if you have enough time to study with our time planner

How much will it cost in England?

We believe cost shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving your potential. That’s why we work hard to keep the cost of study as low as possible and have a wide range of flexible ways to pay to help spread, or even reduce, the cost.

  • Fees are paid on a module-by-module basis – you won't have to pay for the whole of your qualification up front.
  • A qualification comprises a series of modules, each with an individual fee. Added together, they give you the total cost.
  • Most OU students study part time at a rate of 60 credits a year.
  • Our current fee for 60 credits is £3,168*.
  • Our current fee for 120 credits, which is equivalent to a year's full-time study, is £6,336*.
  • At current prices, the total cost of your qualification would be £3,168*.
  • .

*The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2022. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees.

Additional costs

Study costs

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

If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you start studying.

Skills for career development

As well as an understanding of astronomy and planetary science, this certificate will develop skills in scientific literacy and numeracy, locating and interpreting scientific data, and using a computer to find and communicate information. It also provides a sound foundation for progressing to an honours degree in a relevant area.

Career relevance

The specialist knowledge and understanding you’ll gain by studying this certificate are particularly applicable to areas such as research and investigation, data analysis, public information, scientific journalism and education. Science is a shortage subject at secondary school level, so there may be incentives to train as a physics, chemistry or maths teacher.


  • Endorsed by the Royal Astronomical Society

Other careers

People with science qualifications are in demand in the jobs market, particularly if they also have good interpersonal skills and some workplace experience. The logical, reasoned approach needed for science study is relevant to a wide range of financial, business and public sector employment.

Exploring your options

Once you register with us (and for up to three years after you finish your studies), you’ll have full access to our careers service for a wide range of information and advice – including online forums, website, interview simulation, vacancy service as well as the option to email or speak to a careers adviser. Some areas of the careers service website are available for you to see now, including help with looking for and applying for jobs. You can also read more general information about how OU study enhances your career.

In the meantime if you want to do some research around this qualification and where it might take you, we’ve put together a list of relevant job titles as a starting point (note that some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience):

  • astronomer
  • observatory assistant
  • astrophysicist
  • research assistant
  • science teacher
  • meteorologist
  • geophysicist
  • scientific journalist
  • technical consultant
  • planetarium manager
  • museum curator.

Thinking of studying this course?

It is not possible to register for this qualification at the moment. We expect to open for registrations in March 2022. If you would like to be kept updated, register your interest.

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