• Offered by Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Areas of interest Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Michael Ireland
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2021
    See Future Offerings

This course has been adjusted for remote participation in 2021, students are encouraged to attend on-campus activities if possible. Course cap: 44

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.

Indicative Assessment

  1. 6 problem sets (40) [LO 1,2,3]
  2. Final exam (30) [LO 1,2]
  3. Written report based on observations made during the field trip (20) [LO 3,4]
  4. Participation and performance during the field trip (10) [LO 1]

The ANU uses 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. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


The expected workload will consist of approximately 130 hours throughout the semester including:

  • Face-to face component which may consist of approximately 1 x 1 hour lectures plus 1x 2 hours of tutorials per week.
  • A four-day / three-night field trip to Siding Spring Observatory during the mid-semester teaching break.
  • Approximately 70 hours of self-study which will include preparation for lectures and other assessment tasks. Some of this study may occur during weekly sessions at the physics drop-in centre.

Inherent Requirements

During this course students develop their ability to:

  • write computer programs to solve problems, which requires students to input and execute code in a common programming language on a computer.

Students who cannot meet this requirement will be unable to achieve full marks for this course and may find it difficult to pass.

Students in this course are typically required to participate in an observing trip (approximately 4 days). In order to fully participate, students must be able to:

  • Travel to the observatory and stay nearby.
  • Complete observation activities at night.
  • Make and interpret visual observations of telescope images.

Students who cannot meet these requirements may be able to partially participate in the trip or negotiate alternative assessment and participation requirements with the course convenor. Please see the trip information page for more information.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have previously completed PHYS1201 and either MATH1014 or MATH1116.

Prescribed Texts

Astrophysics in a Nutshell, by D. Maoz

Assumed Knowledge

Recommended: PHYS2013, PHYS2020, MATH2305.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2021 $4110
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2021 $5880
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
6209 26 Jul 2021 02 Aug 2021 14 Sep 2021 29 Oct 2021 In Person View

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