• Class Number 8549
  • Term Code 3060
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • AsPr Michael Ireland
    • AsPr Michael Ireland
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 27/07/2020
  • Class End Date 30/10/2020
  • Census Date 31/08/2020
  • Last Date to Enrol 03/08/2020
SELT Survey Results

The goal of this course is to provide students with the knowledge of the most essential physical processes in astrophysics, and the way in which we can make key inferences about these processes by astronomical observations. Students will develop an understanding of the thermodynamical, nuclear and radiative processes that govern the evolution of stars and stellar systems, and how stellar and planetary masses, distances, luminosities, temperature and radii are inferred from observations. They will learn about the key components of galaxies – dark matter, stars and gas, and how their masses and other properties are measured. Students will also gain practical experience with astronomical observations with a field trip to the Siding Spring Observatory.

This course can be taken as an HPO. Please discuss with course convener if you request this option.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Use mathematical, computational, and experimental skills in the context of planning, executing, and interpreting telescopic observations;
  2. Analyse and describe the properties and behaviour of a wide range of astronomical objects using physical principles;
  3. Work effectively as part of a research group;
  4. Communicate research findings.

Research-Led Teaching

Throughout the course, the teaching perspective switches from theoretical prediction to observations and categorisation/explanation, demonstrating how interaction between theory and observations advances astrophysical knowledge. The field trip observations and written report involve answering one of several astrophysical questions using the quantitative methodology of observational astrophysics,

Field Trips

The course field trip is nominally scheduled in two groups during September 7-9 or 9-11, 2020, to Siding Spring Observatory. Final approval of the field trip is pending a risk assessment due to COVID-19, and will operate with reduced overall numbers. The field trip is highly recommended but not compulsory. Students not attending the field trip in person will participate in remote observations, and will undertake alternative assessment to replace the field trip worksheet.

Additional Course Costs

Field trip cost is $300 per student. This includes accomodation at Siding Spring observatory, transport and most food.

Examination Material or equipment

One A4 sheet of notes (writing on both sides) and scientific calculator permitted.

Required Resources

Textbook is "Astrophysics in a Nutshell" by Dan Maoz (2nd edition).

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments on submitted assessments
  • verbal comments in tutorials, especially in small group activities
  • feedback to the whole class during lectures

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Other Information

Payments for the field trip can be made via Scienceshop 

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Week 1 Making Astronomical Observations. Basic observations of Stars.
2 Weeks 2 Stellar Physics
3 Weeks 3-4 Stellar Evolution
4 Week 5 Practical Astronomical Observations and Coordinate Systems
5 Week 6 Field trip preparation: Reducing Astronomical Data
6 Weeks 7-8 Exoplanets
7 Week 9 Structure and Dynamics of the Milky Way
8 Week 10 Other Galaxies and Active Galactic Nuclei
9 Week 11 Big Bang Cosmology
10 Week 12 The Interstellar Medium and Star Formation

Tutorial Registration

Tutorial registration will be on Wattle if enrolments are high enough for two separate classes.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Homework Problem Sets 30 % * * 1,2,3
In-tutorial Problem Sets 10 % * * 1,2,3
Scientific Report on 2.3m Observations 20 % 29/09/2020 14/10/2020 3,4
Participation and Performance during Field Trip/Alternative Assessment 10 % 11/09/2020 23/09/2020 1
End of Semester exam 30 % 05/11/2020 03/12/2020 1,2

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Integrity . In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


Participation during the field trip will be assessed through a worksheet to be handed in during the trip, and through tutor assessment of team performance during use of the 2.3m telescope for astronomical observations. Participation during the tutorials will be assessed through the in-tutorial problems sets.


Please note, that where a date range is used in the Assessment Summary in relation to exams, the due date and return date indicate the approximate timeframe in which the exam will be held and results returned to the student (official end of Semester results released on ISIS). Students should consult the course wattle site and the ANU final examination timetable to confirm the date, time and venue of the exam.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 30 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Homework Problem Sets

Each 2 weeks (on a Monday) you will be given a problem set which is due 14 days later (on a Monday). Part of the problem set may be completed in the tutorial as a group, and part of the problem set is to be completed individually. Many of the problems will be similar to questions in the textbook.

Value: Each problem set is worth 5 of the overall mark.

There are 6 problem sets due over the semester. It is intended that the marked problem sets will be returned within 2 weeks after submission. Further details can be found on the Course Wattle site.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

In-tutorial Problem Sets

Smaller problem sets will be required to be completed during the tutorials. These will be multiple choice or short answer and will be automatically assessed the same day.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 29/09/2020
Return of Assessment: 14/10/2020
Learning Outcomes: 3,4

Scientific Report on 2.3m Observations

During the field trip (in-person or via remote, i.e. online observations), you will have the opportunity to take observations with the ANU 2.3m telescope in a small group. For each type of observation, bad weather (moderately common) or telescope/instrument problems (less common) may prevent data collection for your group. In this case, you will use data collected from other groups or data collected by ANU staff. The field trip report will include a description of the astrophysical question the observations were trying to answer, how the observations were conducted, the meaning of the results and a reflection on how the observations could have been improved if conducted a second time or of a different astrophysical target.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 11/09/2020
Return of Assessment: 23/09/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1

Participation and Performance during Field Trip/Alternative Assessment

During the field trip, all students will be required to fill out a worksheet during daytime tours of telescopes and instruments and tasks. Additional engagement will be measured by asking relevant questions, also recorded on the worksheet. During the nighttime observations, students will be assessed on their ability to safely follow instructions to operate the instrument and telescope, and to use their knowledge of telescope operation and data collection in maximising the efficiency of data collection for the astrophysical question their group is given. For any students not attending the field trip, an alternative assessment about the practical use of telescopes and instrument will be completed.

Assessment Task 5

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 05/11/2020
Return of Assessment: 03/12/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,2

End of Semester exam

The date range in the Assessment Summary indicates the start of the end of semester exam period and the date official end of semester results are released on ISIS. Please check the ANU final Examination Timetable http://www.anu.edu.au/students/program-administration/assessments-exams/examination-timetable to confirm the date, time and location exam.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.

The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with.

The Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Individual assessment tasks may or may not allow for late submission. Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission not permitted. If submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date is not permitted, a mark of 0 will be awarded. This applies to Problem Sets and Field Trip Worksheets.
  • Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. This applies to the Field Trip Written Report.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Returning Assignments

Assignments will be returned via the class Wattle site, with the exception of the field trip worksheets which will be returned in paper form during the field trip.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

Resubmission of assignments is not possible after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

AsPr Michael Ireland

Research Interests

Exoplanets, Star and Planet Formation, Astronomical Instrumentation

AsPr Michael Ireland

Wednesday By Appointment
AsPr Michael Ireland
6125 0221

Research Interests

AsPr Michael Ireland

Wednesday By Appointment

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