Faculty of Science

Monash University

Undergraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2015 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.

FacultyFaculty of Science
Organisational UnitSchool of Physics and Astronomy
OfferedClayton First semester 2015 (Day)
Coordinator(s)Associate Professor Michael Brown


An introduction to modern astronomy, with an emphasis on using astronomical observations to understand the evolution of stars, galaxies and the Universe. Students are introduced to the night sky and how to navigate around it using astronomical coordinates. The design, performance and use of visible and radio wavelength telescopes is discussed in detail, including imaging and spectroscopy. Visible and radio wavelength observations will be interpreted to determine the distances, masses, ages and evolution of stars and galaxies. Laboratory work is a key component of ASP2011, including an astronomical observing session and analysis of data from major observatories.


On completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Understand the motion of the planets in the night sky;
  2. Navigate the night sky using celestial coordinates;
  3. Measure the brightness of celestial objects using astronomical images;
  4. Understand the workings of reflecting and refracting telescopes;
  5. Determine the angular resolution achieved by telescopes;
  6. Describe the operation of CCDs;
  7. Understand the statistics of photons from celestial objects;
  8. Understand how astronomers determine the distances, luminosities, masses, radii and temperatures of stars;
  9. Interpret the Hertzspung-Russell diagram;
  10. Understand how stellar evolution can be inferred from observations;
  11. Understand what observational astronomy tells us about the birth and fate of stars;
  12. Use radio and Hubble Space Telescope observations to measure the expansion of the Universe;
  13. Describe the emission processes responsible for radio waves;
  14. Describe the origin of 21-cm wavelength radio waves;
  15. Utilise 21-cm observations to measure the distances to and masses of galaxies;
  16. Understand the principles behind radio interferometers;
  17. Use radio observations to determine the masses of black holes and the radii of neutron stars;
  18. Interpret astronomical observations and justify conclusions drawn via a concise and accurate written report.


Examination (3 hours): 50%
Written assignments: 15%
Laboratory: 35%
Students must achieve a pass mark in the laboratory component to achieve an overall pass grade.

Workload requirements

Three 1-hour lecture or tutorial classes per week and one 3-hour laboratory class per week

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study


6 points of physics at first-year level