AST80004 (formerly HET603) Exploring Stars & the Milky Way

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




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

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

This Unit aims to provide an introduction to the birth, life and death of stars and the structure of our Galaxy. The emphasis will be on conceptual astronomy rather than mathematical techniques.

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

  • appreciate and understand the way stars are classified and the approaches used to discover their properties;
  • understand the principles involved in the life cycle of stars, from protostar to stellar remnants;
  • communicate the basic principles and concepts about our Galaxy and its constituents (stars, protostars, stellar remnants, gas clouds, dark matter) in a non-technical way understandable to the wider public;
  • perceive the limits of our understanding of our place in the Galaxy, including an awareness of the place of dark matter in modern astronomical theories;
  • research an astronomy topic in depth, using dependable sources of astronomical information on the internet.


  • The bulk properties and structure of the Sun
  • Distance, magnitudes, colours and luminosity of stars
  • Spectral lines and spectral types of the stars
  • The interstellar medium and the birth of stars
  • The Hertzsprung-Russell diagram and the ZAMS
  • Life on the main sequence, lifetime and mass-luminosity relations
  • Evolution of a solar mass star: red giants, planetary nebulae and white dwarfs
  • Variable stars
  • Supernovae, supernovae remnants and creation of the elements
  • End products: neutron stars, pulsars, black holes
  • Gamma ray bursts: observations and theory
  • Binary star systems, open clusters and globular clusters
  • The structure of the Milky Way, the galactic centre, dark matter

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

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