A series of intermediate astronomy courses at the Royal Observatory to help you answer all your questions about our Universe
This comprehensive course provides an opportunity for those who are keen to acquire a rigorous scientific understanding of the Universe. Intermediate Astronomy offers a firm grounding in the study of the Sun-Earth-Moon system, the Solar System, the Milky Way Galaxy and the wider Universe. This course is an excellent follow-on from Introduction to Astronomy and Introduction to Astrophysics.
The course consists of 3 ten-week modules on Tuesday evenings. The course follows the GCSE Astronomy syllabus, but it is not an accredited course. Students are assessed through coursework and receive a certificate of achievement from the Royal Observatory on the completion of all modules
Each module is intended to be run on-site at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, but will transfer to an online course run via Zoom in the case of Covid restrictions. Please only book if you are certain you will be able to attend an on-site course.
The modules for the 2023/24 academic year are:
Module 1: From our Planet to the Night Sky
This module provides a foundation on the Earth and the night sky. The module begins with an introduction to the Earth as a planet and coordinate systems on the Earth. The course then covers the night sky and constellations and how astronomers keep track of objects in the night sky. The course also discusses more practical topics about observing, including optical telescopes as well as observing tasks. Lastly, the course explores the Moon and how the night sky has been used to help with navigation on Earth.
Module 2: Solar System Dynamics
This module provides an introduction to solar systems as well as the objects in our own solar system. The course starts with a focus on the Sun-Earth-Moon system. The module then moves on to planets in our solar system and how the planets and Sun seem to move in the sky from Earth. There is an introduction to historical models of the Solar System as well as an understanding of Solar System dynamics using Kepler’s three laws. Additionally, the module explores the objects in our solar system, including the Sun. Lastly, the module touches on the formation of solar systems as well as planets outside our solar system, or exoplanets.
Module 3: Our Galaxy and Beyond
This module provides an introduction to our Milky Way Galaxy as well as other galaxies throughout the Universe. It starts by focusing on stars and their properties, including magnitudes, distances and variability. The course introduces radio telescopes and how telescopes can be used to observe wavelengths of light outside the visible spectrum. There is also material about nebulae and star formation as well as the evolution of stars. The syllabus moves on to galaxies, including the Milky Way, and the distribution of galaxies in the Universe. The course finishes by discussing the Big Bang and the mysterious nature of dark matter and dark energy.
Intermediate Astronomy follows the textbook GCSE (9-1) Astronomy: A Guide for Pupils and Teachers. This is included in the price of the course and need not be purchased separately.
Studying this course requires good scientific and mathematical knowledge and computer literacy. While it is intended for adults, students aged 16 and upwards will be considered for enrolment on a case-by-case basis. We encourage all our prospective students to try the Maths quiz below before deciding to do the course.
This is not an exhaustive list of the types of mathematical concepts you will encounter, but is indicative of the level of understanding required.
After completing this course, students may wish to consider joining our two-year Foundation Astrophysics course, which is our most advanced course in astronomy focusing on topics at a university foundation degree level.
If you are 16+ and are interested in the course, please contact our Bookings team (email@example.com) and we will consider entry on a case-by-case basis.
Everyone taking a course at the Royal Observatory is entitled to a 10% discount for books purchased from Royal Museums Greenwich - please check with your course tutor for more details!
Mark is an award-winning professional science communicator, author and astronomer with a doctorate in astrophysics. Mark has written several academic books, given hundreds of talks and delivered planetarium shows to people of all ages and experience levels. He has appeared on The Sky at Night, BBC News, ITV News, and a number of Channel 4 documentaries, as well as local, national, and international radio. Mark has been a science consultant for several TV and film productions, as well as providing technical assistance to science fiction authors. He is especially proud that part of his doctoral thesis on massive star formation is now used to save lives in medical imaging.