15 Credits AUTUMN

Cannot be taken with: PHY327
Pre-requisites: PHY111

Aims/Description: Astronomy is at once the oldest of the exact sciences, having been practised by most ancient civilisations, and one of the youngest: modern astronomy, with its focus on the physics of astronomical objects, is only a century old.  In this course we will study how astronomy developed from a simple awareness of the phases of the Moon and the existence of the planets to its present position as a major branch of physics.  Although the heritage of modern astronomy is largely from the eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamia, we will also look at astronomy as it was practised in other cultures, particularly India, China and Mesoamerica.   This unit aims to provide an introduction to the historical development of modern astronomy, with a focus on the nature of discovery in astronomy, the interplay between theory and observation, the role of technological advances, and the relationship between astronomy and physics.  The course is divided into a series of thematic topics arranged in approximate chronological order, prefaced by a brief introduction to philosophy of science.  In contrast to the BSc version, this unit also has a focus on non-Western astronomy, with students required to research and write a report on some aspect of the history of astronomy outside the Mediterranean/Mesopotamian area.   The unit is taught by a combination of lectures and written course resources for the main thread, with students expected to research their report on non-Western astronomy independently, in line with expectations for students at masters level ("holders will have the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development").

Restrictions on availability: If not Our Evolving Universe or Introduction to Astrophysics, then approval from module lead is required

Teaching Methods: Lectures, Seminars, Independent Study
Assessment: Formal Exam, Course work

Information on the department responsible for this unit (Physics and Astronomy):

Departmental Home Page
Teaching timetable


The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

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Teaching methods and assessment displayed on this page are indicative for 2021-22. Students will be informed by the academic department of any changes made necessary by the ongoing pandemic.

Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK