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Durham University

Department of Physics

PHYS1081 Introduction to Astronomy (2012/13)

Details of the module's prerequisites, learning outcomes, assessment and contact hours are given in the official module description in the Faculty Handbook - follow the link above.  A detailed description of the module's content is given below, together with book lists and a link to the current library catalogue entries.  For an explanation of the library's categorisation system see

Content and Teaching Methods

Course Structure and Introduction

Dr J.R. Lucey

First lecture in Michaelmas Term

Syllabus:  Outline of the course and introduction.


Additional: Astronomy: The Evolving Universe, M. Zeilik (CUP, 9th Ed.)
Additional: Universe, R. Freedman and W. Kaufmann (Freeman, 8th Ed.)
Additional: Introductory Astronomy and Astrophysics, M. Zeilik and S.A. Gregory (Harcourt)
Additional: Astrophysics, C. Bishop (Murray)

A User's Guide to the Night Sky

Dr J.R. Lucey

6 lectures in Michaelmas Term + optional evening observational sessions

Syllabus: Introduction to the Night Sky, Naked Eye Astronomy, Motions in the Sky, the Celestial Sphere, Coordinate Systems, the Ecliptic, the Seasons, Solar and Sidereal Days, Precission of the Equinoxes, the Moon, Eclipses, the Planets, Sidereal and Synodic Periods, Apparent Motion of an Inferior Planet, Apparent Motion of a Superior Planet, Further Objects to observe with the Naked-Eye.


Additional: How to Identify the Night Sky, S. Dunlop and W. Tirion (Collins)
Additional: Out of the Blue, J. Naylor (CUP) 
Additional: The Ever-Changing Sky: A Guide to the Celestial Sphere, J.B. Kaler (CUP)

The Solar System

Dr J.R. Lucey

6 lectures in Michaelmas Term

Syllabus:  Early Solar System models, Distances in the Solar System, Kepler's laws and Gravity, Terrestrial Planets, Gas Giants, Asteroids, Comets, Formation of the Solar System, Formation of the Earth-Moon system.


As for 'Course Structure and Introduction' above.

Sun, Stars and Stellar Evolution

Prof M.J. Ward

6 Lectures in Michaelmas Term

Syllabus:  The Stars – measuring the stars, stellar classification, how the stars shine. The Sun as a star. Making sense of the 'zoo' – stellar evolution, star clusters and ages. Stellar deaths – supernovae, white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes.


As for 'Course Structure and Introduction' above.


Dr R.J. Wilman

6 lectures in Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms

Syllabus: What is Astrobiology? The formation of our Solar System.  Methods for the detection of extra-solar planets.  Conditions for life: habitable zones. The prospects for finding extraterrestrial life.


Additional: An Introduction to Astrobiology, I. Gilmour and M.A. Sephton, Eds. (CUP)
Additional: Extrasolar Planets and Astrobiology, C.A. Scharf (Univeristy Science books)

The Milky Way and Beyond

Prof T. Shanks

6 lectures in Epiphany Term

Syllabus:  The Milky Way – the interstellar medium, mapping the Galaxy.  The Milky Way's companions.  Galaxies – the hubble sequence, spiral and elliptical galaxies, measuring distances.  Clusters and Superclusters.  Colliding galaxies.  Active galaxies and quasars.  Evidence for Dark Matter.  The expansion of the Universe.  Observational techniques and facilities.


As for 'Course Structure and Introduction' above.

Cosmic History

Prof C.S. Frenk

7 lectures in Epiphany Term

Syllabus: The expanding Universe, the Big Bang, the cosmic microwave background radiation, dark matter.


Additional: Quarks, Leptons and the Big Bang, J. Allday (IOP Publishing)
Additional: An Introduction to Modern Cosmology, A. Liddle (Wiley)
Additional: The Cosmic Perspective, J.O. Bennett et al. (Pearson, 4th Ed., Chapters 16, 17)
Additional: Astronomy: A Beginner's Guide to the Universe, E. Chaisson and S. McMillan (Pearson, 5th Ed., Chapters 16, 17)

Problem exercises