Specification


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The specification is split into 2 papers: You can see the topics covered by the Paper numbers below.

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For each topic listed you can see the Specification number, Topic Name and Paper. The last 2 columns are the section on this website and the page link.

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To facilitate a logical teaching and learning approach this website is split into 14 sections. You can see what section covers what topic and paper. For example in the specification there are 4 topics covering the Moon. This website uses 1 Moon section.

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Paper Specification Topic Website Section
1
Topic 1 – Planet Earth
- EARTH
1
Topic 2 – The lunar disc
- MOON
1
Topic 3 – The Earth-Moon-Sun system
- EARTH       - MOON       - SUN      - MOTION
1
Topic 4 – Time and the Earth-Moon-Sun cycles
- TIME       - MOON
1
Topic 5 – Solar System observation
- MOTION       - SUN       - CELESTIAL OBSERVATION      - SOLAR SYSTEM
1
Topic 6 – Celestial observation
- CELESTIAL OBSERVATION      - GALAXIES
1
Topic 7 – Early models of the Solar System
- EARTH       - MOTION      - CELESTIAL OBSERVATION      - STARLIGHT      - SOLAR SYSTEM
1
Topic 8 – Planetary motion and gravity
- MOTION
1
Topic 9 – Exploring the Moon
- MOON       - MISSIONS      - SOLAR SYSTEM
2
Topic 10 – Solar astronomy
- SUN      
2
Topic 11 – Exploring the Solar System
- SOLAR SYSTEM       - MISSIONS       - TELESCOPES       - PLANETARY FORMATIONS       - MOTION
2
Topic 12 – Formation of planetary systems
- PLANETARY FORMATIONS
2
Topic 13 – Exploring starlight
- STARLIGHT       - TELESCOPES      - CELESTIAL OBSERVATION
2
Topic 14 – Stellar evolution
- STELLAR EVOLUTION      - CELESTIAL OBSERVATION
2
Topic 15 – Our place in the Galaxy
- GALAXIES
2
Topic 16 – Cosmology
- COSMOLOGY


 

Topic 1 – Planet Earth

Students will gain an understanding of the planet Earth and its internal structure. They will learn about the major divisions on Earth’s surface and how its atmosphere affects observations.


# Topic Paper Section Page
1.1 Know that the shape of the Earth is an oblate spheroid 1 - Shape & Size
1.2 Be able to use information about the mean diameter of the Earth (13 000 km) 1 - Shape & Size
1.3 Understand the Earth’s major internal divisions and their features:
  1. crust
  2. mantle
  3. outer core
  4. inner core
1 - Inside the Earth
1.4 Be able to use the latitude and longitude co-ordinate system 1 - - Latitude & Longitude
1.5 Be able to use the major divisions of the Earth’s surface as astronomical reference points, including:
  1. Equator
  2. Tropic of Cancer
  3. Tropic of Capricorn
  4. Arctic Circle
  5. Antarctic Circle
  6. Prime Meridian
  7. North Pole
  8. South Pole
1 - Terms +
- Equator & Tropics
- Poles & Circles
- Meridian
1.6 Understand the effects of the Earth’s atmosphere on astronomical observations, including sky colour, skyglow (light pollution) and ‘twinkling’ (seeing) 1 - Atmosphere

 

 

Topic 2 – The lunar disc

Students will gain an understanding of the Moon and its surface formations, and be able to identify some of the main features on its surface. Students will study the rotation and revolution of the Moon and the effect of libration.

# Topic Paper Section Page
2.1 Know the shape of the Moon 1 - Shape, Size & Distance
2.2 Be able to use information about the mean diameter of the Moon (3500 km) 1 - Shape, Size & Distance
2.3 Be able to recognise the appearance of the principal naked-eye lunar surface formations, including:
  1. craters
  2. maria
  3. terrae
  4. mountains
  5. valleys
1 - Surface Formations +
- Craters
- Maria
- Terrae
- Mountains
- Valleys
2.4 Understand the structure and origin of the principal naked-eye lunar surface formations, including:
  1. craters
  2. maria
  3. terrae
  4. mountains
  5. valleys
1 - Surface Formations +
- Craters
- Maria
- Terrae
- Mountains
- Valleys
2.5 Be able to identify the following features on the lunar disc:
  1. Sea of Tranquility
  2. Ocean of Storms
  3. Sea of Crises
  4. Tycho
  5. Copernicus
  6. Kepler
  7. Apennine mountain range
1 - Lunar Features
2.6 Be able to use the rotation and revolution (orbital) periods of the Moon 1 - Rotation & Orbit
2.7 Understand the synchronous nature of the Moon’s orbit 1 - Rotation & Orbit
2.8 Understand the causes of lunar libration and its effect on the visibility of the lunar disc 1 - Libration

 

 

Topic 3 – The Earth-Moon-Sun system

Students will gain an understanding of the relationship between the Earth, Moon and Sun and how they affect each other. They will also study tides, precession and eclipses.

# Topic Paper Section Page
3.1 Be able to use the relative sizes of the Earth, Moon and Sun 1 - Earth, Moon, Sun System
3.2 Be able to use the relative distances between the Earth, Moon and Sun 1 - Earth, Moon, Sun System
3.3 Understand how Eratosthenes and Aristarchus used observations of the Moon and Sun to determine successively:
  1. diameter of the Earth
  2. diameter of the Moon
  3. distance to the Moon
  4. distance to the Sun
  5. diameter of the Sun
Earth - Measuring Diameters & Distances
3.4 Be able to use information about the mean diameter of the Sun (1.4 × 106 km) 1 - Earth, Moon, Sun System
3.5 Understand the relative effects of the Sun and Moon in producing high and low, spring and neap tides 1 - Tides
3.6 Understand how the gradual precession of the Earth’s axis affects the appearance of the Sun, Moon and stars, when observed from Earth, and its use in archaeoastronomy 1 - - Precession
- Archaeoastronomy
3.7 Be able to use data relating to the rate of precession of the Earth’s axis 1 - - Precession
3.8 Understand the appearance of the Sun during partial, total and annular solar eclipses, including the terms first, second, third and fourth umbral contact 1 - Solar Eclipse

3.9 Understand the appearance of the Moon during partial and total lunar eclipses, including the terms first, second, third and fourth umbral contact 1 - Lunar Eclipse
3.10 Understand the causes of solar and lunar eclipses 1 - Eclipses +

 

 

Topic 4 – Time and the Earth-Moon-Sun cycles

Students will gain an understanding of astronomical definitions and measurements of time.
They will study synodic and sidereal time, solstices and equinoxes and the need for time zones.

 

# Topic Paper Section Page
4.1 Understand the difference between sidereal and synodic (solar) days 1 - The Day
4.2 Understand the role of the Sun in determining Apparent Solar Time (AST) 1 - Apparent & Mean Sun
4.3 Understand the role of the Mean Sun in determining Mean Solar Time (MST) and Local Mean Time (LMT) 1 - Apparent & Mean Sun
4.4 Be able to use: the Equation of Time = Apparent Solar Time (AST) – Mean Solar Time (MST) 1 - EOT Calculations
4.5 Understand the annual variation of the Equation of Time 1 - Equation of Time
4.6 Understand the causes of the annual variation of the Equation of Time 1 - Equation of Time
4.7 Understand how to determine the time of local noon using shadows, including use of a shadow stick 1 - Shadow Stick
4.8 Understand the structure and use of sundials 1 - Sundial
4.9 Understand the lunar phase cycle 1 - Phases of the Moon
4.10 Understand the difference between sidereal and synodic (solar) months 1 - Rotation and Orbit
4.11 Understand the annual variation in times of sunrise and sunset 1 - Daylight
4.12 Understand the astronomical significance of equinoxes and solstices 1 - Equinox & Solstice
4.13 Understand the variation in the Sun’s apparent motion during the year, particularly at the equinoxes and solstices 1 - Equinox & Solstice
4.14 Understand the relationship between sidereal and synodic (solar) time 1 - The Day
4.15 Understand the difference in local time for observers at different longitudes 1 - Longitude
4.16 Understand the use of time zones 1 - Time Zones
4.17 Be able to use data related to time zones 1 - Time Zones
4.18 Know that mean time at any point along the Prime Meridian is defined as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which is the same as Universal Time (UT) 1 - Prime Meridian & GMT
4.19 Be able to use shadow-stick data and the Equation of Time to determine longitude 1 - Shadow Stick
4.20 Understand the principles of astronomical methods for the determination of longitude, including the lunar distance method 1 - Longitude
4.21 Understand the principle of the horological method for the determination of longitude (Harrison’s marine chronometer) (knowledge of internal working of chronometers not required) 1 - Longitude

 

 

Topic 5 – Solar System observation

Students will gain an understanding of how to observe the Sun and planets, including the locations of the planets in relation to the Earth and the Sun and safely observing the Sun.

# Topic Paper Section Page
5.1 Understand how to use pinhole projection to observe the Sun safely 1 - Safety
5.2 Understand the observed motion of the Sun follows an annual path called the ecliptic 1 - Ecliptic +
5.3 Understand the changing position of the planets in the night sky 1 - Planet Motion
5.4 Understand the observed motion of the planets takes place within a narrow Zodiacal Band 1 - Ecliptic
5.5 Understand the observed retrograde motion of planets 1 - Planet Motion
5.6 Understand the terms First Point of Aries and First Point of Libra 1 - - Ecliptic +
Celestial Sphere +
5.7 Understand the appearance and cause of meteors and meteor showers, including determination of the radiant 1 - - Meteor...Types
- Meteor Showers
5.8 Understand the terms:
  1. conjunction (superior and inferior)
  2. opposition
  3. elongation
  4. transit
  5. occultation
1 - Terms +
- Conjunction & Opposition
- Transit & Occultation
- Elongation

 

 

Topic 6 – Celestial observation

Students will gain an understanding of how to observe a variety of naked-eye astronomical phenomena. They will study how to plan their observations to be at the best time and location, taking into account effects such as weather and light pollution.

# Topic Paper Section Page
6.1 Be able to recognise the following astronomical phenomena visible to the naked eye, including:
  1. Sun
  2. Moon
  3. stars (including double stars, constellations and asterisms)
  4. star clusters
  5. galaxies and nebulae
  6. planets
  7. comets
  8. meteors
  9. aurorae
  10. supernovae
  11. and artificial objects, including:
  12. artificial satellites
  13. aircraft
1 - What's in the Sky? +
Groups & Clusters
Constellations +

6.2 Be able to recognise and draw the following constellations and asterisms, including their most prominent stars:
  1. Cassiopeia
  2. Cygnus
  3. Orion
  4. Plough
  5. Southern Cross
  6. Summer Triangle
  7. Square of Pegasus
1 - - Asterisms
6.3 Understand the use of asterisms as pointers to locate specific objects in the night sky, including:
  1. Arcturus and Polaris from the Plough
  2. Sirius, Aldebaran and the Pleiades from Orion’s Belt
  3. Fomalhaut and the Andromeda galaxy from Square of Pegasus
1 - - Pointers
6.4 Understand why there is a range of constellation, asterism and star names among different cultures 1 - - Constellations List
6.5 Be able to use information from star charts, planispheres, computer programs or ‘apps’ to identify objects in the night sky 1 - - Charts
6.6 Understand the causes and effects of light pollution on observations of the night sky 1 - - Visibility & Light Pollution
6.7 Understand the meaning of the terms:
  1. celestial sphere
  2. celestial poles
  3. celestial equator
1 - Celestial Sphere +
6.8 Understand the use of the equatorial coordinate system (right ascension and declination) 1 - - Equatorial Coordinates
6.9 Understand the use of the horizon coordinate system (altitude and azimuth) 1 - - Horizon Coordinates
6.10 Understand how the observer’s latitude can be used to link the equatorial and horizon coordinates of an object for the observer’s meridian 1 - Celestial Calculations
6.11 Understand how the observer’s meridian defines local sidereal time and an object’s hour angle 1 - - Meridian
6.12 Be able to use information on equatorial and horizon coordinates to determine:
  1. the best time to observe a particular celestial object
  2. the best object(s) to observe at a particular time
1 - Celestial Calculations
6.13 Understand, in relation to astronomical observations, the terms:
  1. cardinal points
  2. culmination
  3. meridian
  4. zenith
  5. circumpolarity
1 - Celestial Terms +
- Cardinal Points
- Culmination
- Meridian
- Zenith
- Circumpolarity
6.14 Understand the diurnal motion of the sky due to the Earth’s rotation 1 - Motion of the Sky +
6.15 Be able to use a star’s declination to determine whether the star will be circumpolar from an observer’s latitude 1 - - Circumpolar & Seasonal Stars
- Circumpolar Calculations
6.16 Understand the apparent motion of circumpolar stars, including upper transit (culmination) and lower transit 1 - - Circumpolar & Seasonal Stars
6.17 Be able to use information about rising and setting times of stars to predict their approximate position in the sky 1 - Celestial Calculations
6.18 Be able to find the latitude of an observer using Polaris 1 - - Polaris
6.19 Understand naked eye techniques such as dark adaptation and averted vision 1 - - Viewing Techniques
6.20 Understand the factors affecting visibility, including:
  1. rising and setting
  2. seeing conditions
  3. weather conditions
  4. landscape
1 - - Visibility & Light Pollution
6.21 Understand the appearance of the Milky Way from Earth as seen with the naked eye 1 - Milky Way

 

 

Topic 7 – Early models of the Solar System

Students will gain an understanding of how ancient civilisations observed the Solar System.
They will also study how early astronomers modelled the Solar System.


# Topic Paper Section Page
7.1 Understand the use of detailed observations of solar and lunar cycles by ancient civilisations around the world for:
  1. agricultural systems
  2. religious systems
  3. time and calendar systems
  4. alignments of ancient monuments
1 - Ancient Observations
7.2 Understand that the current celestial alignment of ancient monuments differs from their original celestial alignment due to the precession of the Earth’s axis 1 - Archaeoastronomy
7.3 Understand early geocentric models of the Solar System 1 - Geocentric & Heliocentric Models
7.4 Understand the advantage of the addition of epicycles, as described by Ptolemy 1 - Geocentric & Heliocentric Models
7.5 Be able to use information about the scale of the Solar System 1 - Orbits
7.6 Be able to use the astronomical unit (1 AU = 1.5 × 108 km), light year (l.y.) and parsec (pc) 1 - - AU
Light Year/Parsec

 

 

Topic 8 – Planetary motion and gravity

Students will gain an understanding of the motion of the planets around the Sun and the role of gravity. They will study Kepler’s laws of planetary motion and Newton’s law of universal gravitation.

# Topic Paper Section Page
8.1 Understand the contribution of the observational work of Brahe in the transition from a geocentric to a heliocentric model of the Solar System 1 - Geocentric & Heliocentric Models
8.2 Understand the contribution of the mathematical modelling of Copernicus and Kepler in the transition from a geocentric to a heliocentric model of the Solar System 1 - Geocentric & Heliocentric Models
8.3 Understand the role of gravity in creating stable elliptical orbits 1 - Gravity
8.4 Understand Kepler's laws of planetary motion 1 - Kepler's Laws +
- 1st Law
- 2nd Law
8.5 Understand the terms ‘aphelion’ and ‘perihelion’ (solar orbits), ‘apogee’ and ‘perigee’ (Earth orbits) for an elliptical orbit 1 - Aphelion and Perihelion
8.6 Be able to use Kepler’s third law in the form: a constant

T2 = a constant
r3
where T is the orbital period of an orbiting body and r is the mean radius of its orbit
1 - - 3rd Law
- Calculations
8.7 Understand that the constant in Kepler’s third law depends inversely on the mass of the central body 1 - - 3rd Law
8.8 Know that Newton was able to explain Kepler’s laws using his law of universal gravitation 1 - Gravity
8.9 Understand that the gravitational force between two bodies is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely  proportional to the square of their separation (algebraic expression of Newton’s law of universal gravitation not required) 1 - Gravity

 

 

Paper 2: Telescopic Astronomy


Topic 9 – Exploring the Moon

Students will gain an understanding of the Moon, its internal structure and features on the far side. They will study how the constant drive to improve the accuracy, detail and range of  observations has provided a context for the exploration of the Moon.

# Topic Paper Section Page
9.1 Understand the Moon’s major internal divisions in comparison with those of the Earth 2 - Inside the Moon
9.2 Understand the major differences between the appearance of the Moon’s near and far sides 2 - The Far Side
9.3 Understand how information has been gathered about the Moon's far side 2 - The Far Side
9.4 Understand that a spacecraft traveling to the Moon must reach the Earth’s escape velocity, the energy requirements of which can be met only by the use of rockets 2 - Rockets
9.5 Understand the Giant Impact Hypothesis and alternative theories of the Moon’s origin, including Capture Theory and Co-accretion Theory 2 - Origins

 

 

Topic 10 – Solar astronomy

Students will gain an understanding of the structure of the Sun, its energy production process and the solar wind. Students will also use sunspot data to determine information about the Sun’s rotation period and the solar cycle.


# Topic Paper Section Page
10.1 Understand methods of observing the Sun safely, including:
  1. telescopic projection
  2. H-alpha filter
2 - Safety
10.2 Know the location and relative temperatures of the Sun’s internal divisions, including:
  1. core
  2. radiative zone
  3. convective zone
  4. photosphere
2 - Structure
10.3 Understand the role of the Sun’s internal divisions in terms of energy production and transfer 2 - Structure
10.4 Understand the principal nuclear fusion process in the Sun (the proton-proton cycle) 2 - Nuclear Fusion
10.5 Know the location, temperature and relative density of components of the solar atmosphere, including:
  1. chromosphere
  2. corona
2 - Structure
10.6 Understand the structure, origin and evolution of sunspots 2 - Sunspots
10.7 Be able to use sunspot data to determine the mean solar rotation period 2 - Rotation
10.8 Be able to use sunspot data relating to the solar cycle 2 - Sunspots
10.9 Understand the different appearance of the Sun when observed using radiation from the different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum 2 - Wavelengths
10.10 Understand the nature, composition and origin of the solar wind 2 - Solar Wind
10.11 Understand the principal effects of the solar wind, including:
  1. aurorae
  2. cometary tails
  3. geomagnetic storms
  4. the effects on satellites, aircraft travel and manned missions
2 - Solar Wind
10.12 Know the shape and position of the Earth’s magnetosphere including the Van Allen Belts 2 - Solar Wind

 

 

Topic 11 – Exploring the Solar System

Students will investigate the main bodies in the Solar System and their characteristics. They will gain understanding that the constant drive to improve the accuracy, detail and range of observations has 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 and has provided a context for the manned exploration of the Moon.

# Topic Paper Section Page
11.1 Be able to use data about the names and relative locations of bodies in the Solar System, including:
  1. planets
  2. dwarf planets
  3. Small Solar System Objects (SSSOs): asteroids, meteoroids
  4. and comets
2 - Scale & Size
Planets +
Dwarf Planets
Small Solar System Objects +
- Asteroids
11.2 Understand the structure of comets (nucleus, coma and tails) 2 - Comets +
11.3 Understand the orbits of short-period comets and their likely origin in the Kuiper Belt 2 - Comet Orbits
11.4 Understand the orbits of long-period comets and their likely origin in the Oort Cloud 2 - Comet Orbits
11.5 Understand the location and nature of the Kuiper Belt, Oort Cloud and the heliosphere 2 - Belts & Clouds
11.6 Understand the following principal characteristics of the planets:
  1. relative size
  2. relative mass
  3. surface temperature
  4. atmospheric composition
  5. presence of satellites
  6. presence of ring systems
2 - Characteristics - Data
Satellites
Rings
11.7 Understand the main theories for the formation and current position of the gas giant planets in our Solar System 2 - Gas Giants
11.8 Be able to use information about the size of the Solar System 2 - Scale & Size
11.9 Be able to use the astronomical unit (1 AU = 1.5 × 108 km), light year (l.y.) and parsec (pc) 2 - - AU
Light Year/Parsec
11.10 Understand the origin and structure of meteoroids and meteorites 2 - - Meteor...Types
- Meteor Showers
11.11 Know that most bodies in the Solar System orbit the Sun in, or close to, a plane called the ecliptic 2 - Ecliptic +
11.12 Understand the use of transits of Venus (as proposed by Halley) to determine the size of the astronomical unit and thus the absolute size of the Solar System 2 - Finding the AU
11.13 Understand the main theories for the origin of water on Earth 2 - Water
11.14 Know that the human eye is limited in astronomical observations by its small aperture and limited sensitivity in low light 2 - Focussing Light
11.15 Understand how the objective element of a telescope captures and focuses light so that the image can be magnified by an eyepiece 2 - Focussing Light
11.16 Know that convex (converging) lenses and concave (converging) mirrors can be used to collect and focus light from astronomical objects 2 - Types
11.17 Understand how simple telescopes can be made by combining an objective (lens or mirror) with an eyepiece 2 - Focussing Light
11.18 Understand the basic design of the following in terms of their key elements:
  1. Galilean refracting telescope
  2. Keplerian refracting telescope
  3. Newtonian reflecting telescope
  4. Cassegrain reflecting telescope
    (detailed ray diagrams not required)
2 - Types
11.19 Understand that the ‘light grasp’ of a telescope is directly proportional to the area of the objective element and thus the square of the diameter of the objective element 2 - - Aperture & Light Grasp
11.20 Know that the aperture of a telescope is related to the diameter of the objective element 2 - - Aperture & Light Grasp
11.21 Know that the field of view is the circle of sky visible through the eyepiece, measured in degrees or arcmin 2 - - Field of View
11.22 Understand the resolution of a telescope is:
  1. proportional to the diameter of the objective element
  2. reduced by observing at a longer wavelength
2 - - Resolution
11.23 Be able to use the formula for the magnification of a telescope:
fo = magnification
fe
where fo is the focal length of the objective element and fe is the focal length of the eyepiece
2 - - Magnification
11.24 Understand the importance of Galileo's early telescopic observations in establishing a heliocentric (Sun-centred) model of the Solar System 2 - - Galileo
Geocentric & Heliocentric Models
11.25 Understand the advantages of reflecting telescopes compared to refracting telescopes, in terms of:
  1. chromatic aberration
  2. very long focal lengths
  3. using large aperture objectives
  4. use of multiple mirrors
2 - Reflecting vs Refracting
11.26 Understand the advantages and disadvantages of the major types of space probe:
  1. fly-by
  2. orbiter
  3. impactor
  4. lander
2 - Space Probes
- Fly By
- Orbiter
- Impactor
- Lander
11.27 Know an example of each type of space probe, including target body and major discoveries, including:
  1. fly-by – New Horizons (Outer Solar System)
  2. orbiter – Juno (Jupiter) or Dawn (asteroids Vesta and Ceres)
  3. impactor – Deep Impact (comet Tempel 1)
  4. lander – Philae (comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko)
2 - Space Probes
- Fly By
- Orbiter
- Impactor
- Lander
11.28 Understand that a space probe must reach the Earth’s escape velocity, the energy requirements of which can be met only by the use of rockets 2 - Rockets
11.29 Understand the advantages and disadvantages of direct observation via manned missions 2 - Manned Missions
11.30 Understand the main features of the Apollo programme to land astronauts on the Moon 2 - Apollo

 

 

Topic 12 – Formation of planetary systems

Students will gain an understanding of how the interaction of gravitational and tidal forces led to the formation of our Solar System. They will use this information to study exoplanets and also the possibility of life existing elsewhere.


# Topic Paper Section Page

12.1
Be able to identify the operation of each of the following in our Solar System:
  1. gravitational attraction producing regular motion, including the orbits of planets and moons
  2. tidal gravitational forces producing effects, including ring systems, asteroid belts and internal heating
  3. gravitational interactions of multiple bodies producing effects such as gradual shifts in orbits, chaotic motion, resonances and the significance of Lagrangian Points (detailed mathematical descriptions not required)
  4. accidental collisions causing impact craters, changes to orbital motions or planetary orientations
  5. solar wind affecting comets, planetary atmospheres and the heliosphere
2 -

 

Tidal & Gravity Factors +
- Attraction
- Multiple Bodies
- Tidal Effects
- Accidents
- Solar Wind Effects

12.2 Be able to identify the operation of each of the following interactions in the formation of planets and moons:
  1. the interaction between tidal gravitational and elastic forces to determine whether a body is broken apart (Roche Limit)
  2. the interaction between attractive gravitational and elastic forces in determining a body’s spherical or irregular shape
  3. the interaction between gravitational and thermal factors in determining the presence of an atmosphere
2 - - Tidal Effects
- Roche Limit
- Body Shape
- Atmosphere
12.3 Understand the main theories for the formation of gas giant planets in planetary systems 2 - Gas Giants
12.4 Understand the current methods for discovering systems of exoplanets, including transit method, astrometry and radial velocity measurements 2 - Finding Exoplanets
12.5 Understand the requirements for life and the possibility of lifeforms existing elsewhere, including:
  1. on Titan
  2. on Europa
  3. on Enceladus
  4. outside our Solar System
2 - Life Elsewhere
12.6 Understand the relevance of the Goldilocks (Habitable) Zones 2 - Goldilocks Zone
12.7 Understand how factors in the Drake equation can be used to allow us to estimate the number of civilisations in our Galaxy 2 - The Drake Equation
12.8 Understand the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, by receiving radio waves (SETI), including the benefits and dangers of discovering extra-terrestrial life 2 - Hello Aliens!

 

 

Topic 13 – Exploring starlight

Students will gain an understanding of how stars are observed and how we can obtain information about them from just observing the light they emit. They will study the evolution of stars and different types of stars. Students will also find out why we observe stars in different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and where telescopes are located to enable better observations to be made.

# Topic Paper Section Page
13.1 Understand the astronomical magnitude scale and how apparent magnitude relates to the brightness of stars as viewed from Earth 2 - Magnitude +
- Apparent
13.2 Understand the term absolute magnitude 2 - - Absolute
13.3 Be able to use the distance modulus formula to determine the absolute (M) or apparent magnitude (m) of a star, given the distance to the star (d): M = m + 5 − 5log d where d is the distance in parsec 2 - - Calculations
13.4 Understand what information can be obtained from a stellar spectrum, including
  1. chemical composition
  2. temperature
  3. radial velocity
2 -  
13.5 Understand how stars can be classified according to spectral type 2 - Classification
13.6 Understand how a star’s colour and spectral type are related to its surface temperature 2 - Classification
13.7 Be able to sketch a simple Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, including labelled axes and indicate the positions of the following:
  1. main sequence stars
  2. the Sun
  3. red and blue giant stars
  4. white dwarf stars
  5. supergiant stars
2 - HR Diagram
13.8 Understand how a star’s life cycle relates to its position on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, for stars similar in mass to the Sun and those with masses that are much greater 2 - HR Diagram
13.9 Understand the inverse square relationship between distance and brightness/intensity 2 - Inverse Square Law
13.10 Understand that an angle of one degree (°) comprises 60 minutes of arc (arcmin) (60’) and that each arcminute is comprised of 60 seconds of arc (arcsec) (60”) 2 - Angles
13.11 Understand the term parsec (pc) 2 - Light Year / Parsec
13.12 Be able to determine astronomical distances using heliocentric parallax 2 - Heliocentric Parallax
13.13 Understand how to use a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram to determine distances to stars 2 - HR for distances
13.14 13.14 Understand the light curves of the following variable stars:
  1. short/long period
  2. eclipsing binary
  3. Cepheid
  4. novae and supernovae
2 - Light Curves +
- Variable Periodic
- Eclipsing Binaries
- Cepheids
- Nova / Supernova
13.15 Understand the causes of variability in the light curve of eclipsing binary stars 2 - Eclipsing Binaries
13.16 Understand how Cepheid variables can be used to determine distances 2 - Cepheid Variables
13.17 Understand the structure of gravitationally bound stellar groupings such as binary stars and clusters 2 - Groups & Clusters
13.18 Understand how the period of an eclipsing binary star can be deduced from its light curve 2 - Eclipsing Binaries
13.19 Be able to use star trail photographs to determine the length of the sidereal day 2 - Star Trails
13.20 Know that most modern astronomical observations are recorded using digital sensors that convert light into electrical signals, which can then be processed and stored as data files 2 - Digital Processing
13.21 Understand how astronomers obtain and study the patterns of spectral lines in the light from astronomical objects 2 - REDODREDO REDO
13.22 Know that the Earth’s atmosphere blocks almost all of the radiation of different wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum, except visible light and radio waves 2 - Earth's Atmosphere
13.23 Know that only optical and radio telescopes should be located at sea level on the Earth’s surface 2 - Observatories
13.24 Understand how a simple radio telescope operates 2 - Radio Telescopes
13.25 Understand why radio telescopes need extremely large apertures in order to maintain a useful resolution 2 - Radio Telescopes
13.26 Understand how multiple radio telescopes can operate as an aperture synthesis system (array) 2 - Radio Telescopes
13.27 Know that radio astronomy has been important in the discovery of quasars, jets from black holes, the structure of the Milky Way and protoplanetary discs 2 - Radio Telescopes
13.28 Understand why some infrared telescopes can operate in high-altitude locations, on the Earth's surface 2 - Infrared
13.29 Know that infrared astronomy has been important in the discovery of protostars, dust and molecular clouds and hotspots on moons 2 - Infrared
13.30 Understand the detrimental effect of the Earth's atmosphere on the quality of images formed by telescopes on the Earth’s surface 2 - Earth's Atmosphere
13.31 Understand why telescopes operating outside the optical and radio ‘windows’ need to be sited above the Earth’s atmosphere 2 - Observatories
13.32 Understand the advantages and disadvantages of space telescopes and detectors, including orbital observing platforms 2 - Space Telescopes
13.33 Understand how gamma ray, x-ray and ultraviolet astronomy have been important in the discovery of gamma ray bursts, black hole accretion discs and the corona and chromosphere structure of young stars 2 - UV, X-Ray, Gamma
13.34 Understand how a telescope alters the appearance of:
  1. stars
  2. double stars
  3. binary stars
  4. open clusters
  5. globular clusters
  6. nebulae
  7. galaxies
2 - What you can see

 

 

Topic 14 – Stellar evolution

Students will gain an understanding of how and why stars evolve. They will study how stars form and how they end their life, depending on their size.


# Topic Paper Section Page
14.1 Be able to use the Messier and New General Catalogue (NGC) in cataloguing nebulae, clusters and galaxies 2 - Messier / NGC
14.2 Be able to use the Bayer system for naming the brightest stars within a constellation 2 - Labelling Stars
14.3 Understand the effects of the interaction between radiation pressure and gravity in a main sequence star 2- -

Gravity & Pressure

14.4 Understand changes to the radiation pressure-gravity balance at different stages in the life cycle of a star with a mass similar to the Sun 2 - Gravity & Pressure
14.5 Understand the balance between electron pressure and gravity in a white dwarf star 2 - Gravity & Pressure
14.6 Understand changes to the radiation pressure-gravity balance at different stages in the life cycle of a star with a mass much greater than the Sun 2 - Neutron Stars
14.7 Understand the balance between neutron pressure and gravity in a neutron star 2 -

- Gravity & Pressure

- Neutron Stars

14.8 Understand the effect the Chandrasekhar Limit has on the outcome on the final stages of the life cycle of a star 2 -

Gravity & Pressure

14.9 Understand the principal stages and timescales of stellar evolution for stars of similar mass to the Sun, including:
  1. emission and absorption nebula
  2. main sequence star
  3. planetary nebula
  4. red giant
  5. white dwarf
  6. black dwarf
2 -

- Types of Stars
- Nova & Supernova
- Neutron Stars
- Black Holes

14.10 Understand the principal stages and timescales of stellar evolution for stars of much larger mass than the Sun, including:
  1. emission and absorption nebula
  2. main sequence star
  3. red super giant
  4. supernova
  5. neutron star
  6. black hole
2 -

- Types of Stars
- Nova & Supernova
- Neutron Stars
- Black Holes

14.11 Understand how astronomers study and gather evidence for the existence of black holes 2 - Black Holes

 

 

Topic 15 – Our place in the Galaxy

Students will gain an understanding of the Milky Way, our place in it and how it fits into the Universe. They will study different types of galaxies and the main theories for their evolution.


# Topic Paper Section Page
15.1 Understand the appearance of the Milky Way from Earth as seen with binoculars or a small telescope 2 - Milky Way
15.2 Know the size and shape of our Galaxy and the location of the Sun, dust, sites of star formation and globular clusters 2 - Exploring the Milky Way
15.3 Understand how 21 cm radio waves, rather than visible light, are used to determine the structure and rotation of our Galaxy 2 - Exploring the Milky Way
15.4 Know that the group of galaxies gravitationally linked to the Milky Way is called the Local Group 2 - Local Group
15.5 Know the composition and scale of the Local Group, including its principal components:
  1. Andromeda Galaxy (M31)
  2. Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (LMC and SMC)
  3. Triangulum Galaxy (M33)
2 - Local Group
15.6 Be able to classify galaxies using the Hubble classification system, including:
  1. spiral
  2. barred spiral
  3. elliptical
  4. irregular
2 - Types +
- Spiral & Barred Spiral
- Elliptical
- Irregular
Gallery
15.7 Know how the different types of galaxies were placed by Hubble on his ‘Tuning Fork’ diagram 2 - Tuning Fork Diagram
15.8 Know that the Milky Way is a barred spiral (SBb) type galaxy 2 - Milky Way
15.9 Know that some galaxies emit large quantities of radiation in addition to visible light 2 - Active Galaxies
15.10 Know that an Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN) is powered by matter falling onto a super-massive black hole 2 - Active Galaxies
15.11 Know types of active galaxies, including:
  1. Seyfert galaxies
  2. quasars
  3. blazars
2 - Active Galaxies
15.12 Know that information about AGNs can be obtained from many regions of the electromagnetic spectrum 2 - Active Galaxies
15.13 Understand why galaxies are grouped in larger clusters and superclusters 2 - Galaxy Clusters
15.14 Understand the main theories for the formation and evolution of galaxies 2 - Formation & Evolution

 

 

Topic 16 – Cosmology

Students will gain an understanding of redshift and Hubble’s law for distant galaxies. They will also study the evidence and explanation for the expanding Universe. Students will explore dark matter and dark energy and the possible fate of the Universe.


# Topic Paper Section Page
16.1 Know that observations of galaxies outside the Local Group show that light is shifted to longer wavelengths (redshift) 2 - Doppler & Redshift
16.2 Understand that redshift is caused by galaxies receding from us 2 - Doppler & Redshift
16.3 Be able to use the formula:
-

where λ is the observed wavelength, λ0 is the emitted wavelength, v is the radial velocity of the source, c is the speed of light

2 - Velocity
16.4 Understand the evidence to confirm the discovery of the expanding universe 2 - Expanding Universe
16.5 Be able to use the relationship between distance and redshift of distant galaxies (Hubble’s law) including the formula:
v = H0d
where v is the radial velocity of the recession of the galaxy, H0 is the Hubble constant and d is the distance of the galaxy from Earth.
2 - Hubble's Law & Constant
16.6 Understand the estimation of the age and size of the Universe using the value of the Hubble constant 2 - Hubble's Law & Constant
16.7 Understand how the expansion of the Universe supports both the Big Bang theory and the Steady State theory 2 - Steady State Theory
16.8 Understand the major observational evidence in favour of the Big Bang theory:
  1. quasars (QSOs)
  2. cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation
  3. Hubble Deep Field image
2 - Big Bang Theory
- Quasars
- CMB
- Hubble Deep Field
16.9 Understand the significance of the fluctuations in the CMB radiation for theories of the evolution of the Universe, including discoveries by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) and the Planck mission 2 - - CMB
16.10 Understand the significance and possible nature of dark matter and dark energy 2 - Dark Matter & Energy
16.11 Understand the difficulties involved in the detection of dark matter and dark energy 2 - Dark Matter & Energy
16.12 Understand that current models of the Universe predict different future evolutionary paths 2 - Universe Models