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    An undergraduate course in Science.

Astrophysics

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If you are interested in using quantitative physical methods to understand the building blocks of the Universe, and already have a good background in Level 2 maths, physics and astronomy, then this is the course for you. This course 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 course. You’ll experience real, collaborative astrophysical research, online with a small group of other students, to acquire, reduce, analyse and interpret data.

Modules at Level 3 assume that you are suitably prepared for study at this level. If you want to take a single module to satisfy your career development needs or pursue particular interests, you don’t need to start at Level 1 but you do need to have adequately prepared yourself for OU study in some other way. Check with our Student Registration & Enquiry Service to make sure that you are sufficiently prepared.

Register for the course


Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
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Registration opens on 24/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£985.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£985.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1316.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

An additional fee for the examination may apply.

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£865.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1316.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1316.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1316.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

See below for information about part time tuition fee loans available for study towards a qualification.

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

*Fees may vary by country.

What you will study

This is a course that builds on skills and concepts you will have developed by studying maths, physics and astronomy at a level equivalent to Open University (OU) Level 2 courses. Although it requires a slightly lower level of mathematics than other Level 3 physics and astronomy courses, it builds on a broader range of 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.

Entry

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

The course 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 courses 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 course. 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 course, 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 course 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 course, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Outside the UK

This course is suitable for study outside the UK.

Preparatory work

As a result of taking the Are you ready for S382? test, you may find that you need to study a further course or courses 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 course 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 Level 2 courses, but it will serve to fill the gaps in your knowledge in many cases.

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.

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. Our Services for disabled students website has the latest information about availability.

Part 2 of the course 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 course 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. Visit our Services for disabled students website for more information, including:

  • help to determine your study requirements and how to request the support that you need  
  • Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
  • using a computer for OU study
  • equipment and other support services that we offer
  • examination arrangements
  • how to contact us for advice and support both before you register and while you are studying.

Study materials

What's included

Course 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 course. It includes online activities – you can access using a web browser – and some course software provided on disk.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer running Windows since 2007 you should have no problems completing the computer-based activities.
  • A netbook, tablet or other mobile computing device is not suitable for this course – check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you have an Apple Mac or Linux computer – please note that you can only use it for this course 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 the details of the support we provide.

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 course 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 course. 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 course grade, they form an essential part of the learning process and you will be required to submit a proportion of them to complete the course.

Your overall course 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 course 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.

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

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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Distance learning

The Open University is the world’s leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you’re at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you’ll be supported throughout your studies – your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information read Distance learning explained.

Are you already an OU student ? Go to StudentHome for information on choosing your next module.
Course facts
About this course:
Course code S382
Credits 30
OU Level 3
SCQF level 10
FHEQ level 6
Course work includes:
5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
5 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
Examination
No residential school

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