HET616 Great Debates in Astronomy

Course/s with Unit:
A unit of study in the Graduate Certificate of Science (Astronomy), Graduate Diploma of Science (Astronomy) and Master of Science (Astronomy).

Credit Points:
12.5 Credit Points

One semester

Contact Hours:
Equivalent to 60 hours


HET624 Galaxies and Their Place in the Universe (or the old HET604 Exploring Galaxies and the Cosmos) and HET607 History of Astronomy, or equivalent units.


Learning and Teaching Structure:
Online delivery mode, contact via newsgroups & email.

Assessable newsgroup contributions (30%), online debate (50%) and online tests (20%).

This Unit will investigate in depth great debates in astronomy which have shaped (or are still shaping) our current understanding of the Universe and its evolution.

After successfully completing this Unit, students should be able to:

  • appreciate that our current understanding of the universe has been shaped by academic debate;
  • understand how astronomical debate was and still is conducted;
  • research an astronomy topic in depth, using dependable sources of astronomical information on the internet and refereed journal articles.

The course content will be made up of detailed investigations of six of the 'big questions' in astronomy, including the following:

  • Our place in space: the nature of our Earth, the Solar System, the cosmos
  • Is Pluto a planet?
  • Stellar controversies: the energy source of stars, the HR diagram and the white dwarf mass limit
  • The scale of the Universe: nearby nebulae, or a universe of galaxies?
  • What is the origin of Gamma Ray Bursts?
  • The Large Scale Structure of the Universe: dark matter and the cosmological constant

Prescribed Textbook & Reading Materials:
For information about the textbook, follow this link.

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