Studying GCSE Astronomy will help you cultivate fundamental skills both universities and employers value highly, such as scientific thinking, problem-solving skills, and the ability to evaluate observations and methodologies.
A qualification in astronomy opens the doors to a diverse range of scientific careers such as becoming a meteorologist, a planetarium director, a science museum curator or even an engineer! It's the first step into astronomy but a giant leap for your future.
What you'll learn
Unit 1 - Essential Maths Skills for Astronomy
Before you get stuck into the rest of the course, this section will help you refresh and practise your maths skills! Maths is a fundamental part of astronomy, and you’ll need to be confident with numbers in order to do well in your exams.
Unit 2 - Planet Earth
To understand planets, you need to start with Earth! In this module, you’ll become an expert in Earth’s internal structures: the crust, mantle, outer and inner core. You’ll then learn about the major features of Earth’s surface and its reference points, like the equator and the prime meridian. Finally, you’ll learn about the effects of the Earth’s atmosphere on astronomical observations, including sky colour and skyglow.
Unit 3 - The Lunar Disc
Now it’s time to look closer at the moon and its structures, learn to identify some of the key features on its surface, such as craters and terrae. In this module, you’ll also study the rotation and revolution of the moon and the effect of libration.
Unit 4 - The Earth-Moon-Sun System
There is an integral relationship between the Earth, moon, and sun and in this module, you’ll understand exactly what connects them, by observing how they affect each other with tides, precession and eclipses. You’ll also develop a range of mathematical skills, including the use of angular measures in degrees and solving algebraic equations.
Unit 5 - Time and the Earth-Moon-Sun Cycles
Here’s where you get to study the astronomical definitions and measurements of time bylooking at the annual variation in the times of sunrise and sunset. You’ll be able to use data related to different time zones and understand the difference between synodic and sidereal time. Finally, you’ll study what causes solstices and equinoxes.
Unit 6 - Solar System Observation
There’s a certain way to observe planets, understanding the locations of planets in relation to the Earth, and a certain way to observe the sun safely, too. In this module, you’ll discover the different methods used to make solar system observations, noticing the motion of the sun as it follows an annual path called the ecliptic, amongst other solar occurrences. You’ll also be able to detect meteors and understand the cause of meteor showers.
Unit 7 - Celestial Observation
After studying this module, you’ll be able to observe astronomical phenomena (such as star clusters, galaxies, nebulae, planets and comets) with the naked eye. How? You’ll learn how to plan your observations taking into account weather and light pollution to be at the best time and location. This module will then teach you how to use information from star charts, planispheres, and different apps to identify objects in the night sky.
Unit 8 - Early Models of the Solar System
As if going back in time, you’ll learnhow early astronomers modelled the solar system. ‘Discover how ancient civilisations all around the world used solar and lunar observations for their agricultural, religious, time, and calendar systems, understanding how crucial astronomy was (and still is) in many aspects of life.
Unit 9 - Planetary Motion and Gravity
Dive into the gravitational pull of the sun, learning about the motions that planets and how gravity influences their journey around the sun. This unit will teach you about Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, alongside Newton’s law of universal gravitation.
Unit 10 - Exploring the Moon
Come to understand the major difference between the appearance of the moon’s near and far sides whilst paying attention to the moon’s internal structure and distinct features. Discover why there’s a constant drive to improve the accuracy, detail and range of observations made about the moon.
Unit 11 - Solar Astronomy
In this module, you’ll study the structure of the sun, learning about its energy production process and solar wind. You’ll also learn how to use sunspot data, and ‘ to determine information about the sun’s rotation period and solar cycle. ‘You’ll then explore the location and relative temperatures of the sun’s internal divisions, including its core and radiative zone.
Unit 12 - Exploring the Solar System
Here, you’ll discover the observations that provided a context for the invention of the telescope, the development of the space telescope, and probes to the outer reaches of our solar system. From here, we’ll teach you how to investigate the main bodies that make up the solar system, learning about their characteristics. This will provide a context for the manned exploration of the moon.
Unit 13 - Formation of Planetary Systems
It was the interaction of gravitation and tidal forces that led to the formation of our solar system. By using your understanding of how this might have occurred, you’ll use this information to study exoplanets and consider the possibility of life existing elsewhere in the universe.
Unit 14 - Exploring Starlight
Become an expert at observing stars in this module, learning how to obtain information about them just from observing the light they emit. ‘ You’ll learn why we observe stars in different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and where telescopes are located to enable better observations to be made.
Unit 15 - Stellar Evolution
Learning about the different types of stars, you’ll also discover how and why stars evolve, looking at their formation and how they end their life, depending on their size. You’ll develop a solid understanding of the principal stages and timescales of stellar evolution for different stars, including red giant stars, white dwarf stars, and supernovas.
Unit 16 - Our Place in the Galaxy
In this module, you’ll get to study everything about the Milky Way and be able to recognise its appearance as seen from Earth. This is where you get to explore our place in the universe, looking at different types of galaxies beyond our own. Then, you’ll get to grapple with the main theories for the evolution of galaxies.
Unit 17 - Cosmology
Finally, you’ll end this course by closely studying the evidence and explanations for the universe’s expansion, with reference to the big bang theory and the steady-state theory. You’ll also gain an understanding of redshift and Hubble’s law for distant galaxies, exploring dark matter and dark energy. Delving into the possible fate of the universe, you’ll understand that current models predict different evolutionary paths for the future.
Edexcel is the UK’s largest awarding organisation offering academic and vocational qualifications in schools, colleges and workplaces in the UK and abroad. Edexcel is a multinational education and examination body covering A-Level Courses and GCSE Courses.
Upon successful completion of this home learning course, you will receive an Astronomy GCSE (1AS0) qualification issued by Edexcel. This syllabus has been specifically chosen because it is best suited to distance learning.
How is this course assessed or examined?
You can enrol now for examinations for Summer 2024.
You will be required to complete the two standard GCSE Astronomy standard written exams:
- Paper 1: 1 hour 45 minutes, 50% of GCSE, 100 marks.
- Paper 2: 1 hour 45 minutes, 50% of GCSE, 100 marks.
We provide a guaranteed exam space in one of our exam centres around the country to take away the hassle of needing to find your own.
During your course, you'll be required to complete various assignments. These do not contribute to your final grade but provide you with an opportunity to submit work to your tutor for marking and feedback. This will help you to monitor your progress and will be used to produce predicted grades (CAGs) if needed.
You'll also need to complete two observational tasks: one unaided and one with the aid of a telescope. You can use your own telescope if you wish; however, you'll be given a login for the National Schools' Observatory, so you can complete your observations via the website.
There are no formal entry requirements for this level two Astronomy course, but you will need the ability to carry out observations of the night sky. You'll also need to have a fairly good grasp of maths.