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Major: Astronomy and Astrophysics

Astronomy and Astrophysics


Department of Physics and Astronomy
Faculty of Science and Engineering

This major must be completed as part of an award. The general requirements for the award must be satisfied in order to graduate.

Requirements for the Major:

Completion of a minimum of 36 credit points including the following prescribed units:

Credit points

100 level

Mathematics IA (Advanced) (3)
Mathematics IA (3)
Mathematics IB (Advanced) (3)
Mathematics IB (3)
6cp from
Electric and Magnetic Interactions (3)
Modern Mechanics (3)
or 6cp from
Physics IA (3)
Physics IB (3)

200 level

Advanced Astronomy (3)
Mathematics IIA (3)
Classical and Quantum Oscillations and Waves (3)
Electromagnetism and Thermodynamics (3)

300 level

Frontiers of Astronomy and Astrophysics (3)
Astrophysics (3)
General Relativity (3)
Classical Electrodynamics (3)


This major cannot be doubled with Physics.
Units marked with a C/P satisfy your Capstone/Participation unit requirement.
Overview and Aims of the Program In this major we develop a quantitative interpretation of the Universe and the underlying physical processes within it. The quantitative interpretation begins with observational astronomy – the process of measuring the Universe with particular emphasis on detecting electromagnetic radiation throughout its spectrum. In order to understand what this radiation means, the Astronomy and Astrophysics major includes the study of radiative transfer: the way in which light propagates through and interacts with matter. From both an observational and theoretical perspective, we study the astrophysical processes that govern the formation and evolution of stars, planets and galaxies, including the structure of our own Galaxy. An essential part of developing this understanding is a solid background in physics and mathematics, including topics such as mechanics, electromagnetic radiation and differential equations. This knowledge development is complemented by hands-on laboratory experiments, collection of astronomical imaging and spectroscopic data, and computer-based analysis.
Graduate Capabilities

The Graduate Capabilities Framework articulates the fundamentals that underpin all of Macquarie’s academic programs. It expresses these as follows:

Cognitive capabilities
(K) discipline specific knowledge and skills
(T) critical, analytical and integrative thinking
(P) problem solving and research capability
(I) creative and innovative

Interpersonal or social capabilities
(C) effective communication
(E) engaged and ethical local and global citizens
(A) socially and environmentally active and responsible

Personal capabilities
(J) capable of professional and personal judgement and initiative
(L) commitment to continuous learning

Program Learning Outcomes By the end of this program it is anticipated you should be able to:

1. demonstrate knowledge of fundamental physics concepts and principles at an advanced level (K)
2. evaluate the role of theoretical models, numerical and empirical studies in development of physics knowledge (K, T, E)
3. demonstrate a creative approach to problem solving by independently identifying and applying core physical principles and relevant mathematical and computational techniques (K, T, P, I)
4. design an activity or experiment to test a physical hypothesis (I, C)
5. complete independent research projects in the area of Astronomy or Astrophysics and present outcomes before peers and lecturers (K, P, C, J)
6. use a range of measurement tools and methodologies to collect data (K, T)
7. use a range of data analysis tools to analyse measurements with due regard to uncertainties (K, T, P)
8. communicate physical ideas using appropriate language and conventions (K, C)
9. demonstrate capacity for effective, responsible and safe work practices as an individual or in a team (E, J, A)
10. describe and calculate the emission properties of gas under different physical conditions (K, T)
11. relate emission properties of gaseous and dusty environments to our ability to observe them (K, T)
12. identify the role of physical laws in determining the structure and life cycle of stars (K, T)
13. describe the structure and evolution of galaxies (K)
14. manipulate data sets using standard astronomical software packages (K, P)
15. manipulate equations describing physical principles to provide an analytical solution of an astrophysical problem (K, T, P)
16. write custom computer programs to solve astrophysical problems (K, I).
Learning and Teaching Methods In this program you will build your fundamental technical skills in experimental and theoretical physics and astronomy and develop understanding of their methodology, relationship with other disciplines and technological applications.

Most of the units are comprised of three structured learning activities - lectures, tutorials and guided laboratory exercises:
• Lectures are where theoretical ideas and experimental and mathematical techniques are introduced and illustrated by a range of illustrative examples. They provide opportunities for discussion and active engagement, and as your studies progress will draw not only on textbooks and online learning materials, but involve exposure and interaction with the current research.
• Tutorials both demonstrate concrete applications of techniques introduced in lectures, and provide training ground for students for their application. Tutorials typically involve a mixture of individual and group work with guidance and assistance from the tutors.
• Laboratory work is an indispensable part of physics and astronomy education. You will acquire familiarity with experimental methods and practices that both illustrate the theoretical concepts that are presented in lectures and facilitate development of practical research skills. Laboratory work is the first setting where students will learn to work collaboratively, and preparation of reports from practical exercises provides you with valuable training in communicating scientific results.

Mastering effective communication is a major component of all learning activities. Apart from the laboratory reports and problem-solving assignments you will prepare oral and written presentations and/or essays of their research and study projects.

From the first year you will be engaged in collaborative work, both in tutorials and laboratories. With your study progression you become exposed to less structured activities, such as individual or group-based research projects, and formal and informal presentations. There are many instances of blended learning activities, including combinations of online and face-to-face modes, or group and/or one-to-one activities.

The program prescribes People, Planet units and allows for Professional engagement, such as a PACE unit. During your study you will take one of the designated People units (in the areas of social sciences, business or arts) and one Planet unit (experiencing a different area of science).

Toward the end of the program the Capstone unit of study allows you to integrate your skills and knowledge, applied to real-life problems through a research project conducted at an external partner institution.

An annual careers evening is held where graduates of the program return to share their experiences with current students preparing to go out into industry, academic or government employment.
Assessment Assessment tasks are intended both to measure individual progress and give feedback. They are based on the topics of the units of study and are provided in two forms: whilst you are working on a task and once you have completed a task. Both forms of feedback are important as they provide you with information and guidance on your development and progress.

At least three different assessment methods are used in each unit. They include problem solving, laboratory work and reports, oral presentations, essays, active participation in lectures and/or tutorials, online and in-class quizzes, individual and group projects. Formal examinations are part of the assessment of the majority of units and involve solving of problems appropriate for the scope and level of the unit.

The assessment in most physics and astronomy units includes regular assessment tasks, such as the submission of weekly/biweekly home assignments and/or in-class tests, designed to assist you in your learning development. Standards and criteria for coursework, what is assessed and how it is assessed, are contained in each unit guide or may be made available during classes. Assessment is undertaken by academic staff, demonstrators and tutors. In some cases peer assessment will contribute to the grade, and it may be done by people from outside the university, such as work placement supervisors or guest lecturers.

Where group work is involved, a self-reflection and peer assessment/feedback in the form of contribution to the assessment task is incorporated into the requirements of the assessment so that your individual contribution can be identified.
Recognition of Prior Learning

Macquarie University may recognise prior formal, informal and non-formal learning for the purpose of granting credit towards, or admission into, a program. The recognition of these forms of learning is enabled by the University’s Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Policy (see and its associated Procedures and Guidelines. The RPL pages contain information on how to apply, links to registers, and the approval processes for recognising prior learning for entry or credit.

Information can be found at:

Support for Learning

Macquarie University aspires to be an inclusive and supportive community of learners where all students are given the opportunity to meet their academic and personal goals. The University offers a comprehensive range of free and accessible student support services which include academic advice, counselling and psychological services, advocacy services and welfare advice, careers and employment, disability services and academic skills workshops amongst others. There is also a bulk billing medical service located on campus.

Further information can be found at

Campus Wellbeing contact details:
Phone: +61 2 9850 7497

Program Standards and Quality

The program is subject to an ongoing comprehensive process of quality review in accordance with a pre-determined schedule that complies with the Higher Education Standards Framework. The review is overseen by Macquarie University's peak academic governance body, the Academic Senate and takes into account feedback received from students, staff and external stakeholders.

Graduate Destinations and Employability Successful completion of a degree in Physics and Astronomy is a demonstration of capacity to observe, analyse and interpret complex situations, and to solve a wide range of problems. The graduates may pursue a career in physical sciences in academia (after post-graduate studies) or industry (often after post-graduate studies). Varieties of specialized fields of physics find their application in electro-optics, telecom, mining, semiconductor, aerospace, biomedical industry and defence.

Outside the immediate field of studies the graduates [in combination with other professional studies/training] are employed in fields including secondary school teaching, law (particularly patent law), finance, data analysis and applications, meteorology, medical physics and imaging.
Assessment Regulations

This program is subject to Macquarie University regulations, including but not limited to those specified in the Assessment Policy, Academic Honesty Policy, the Final Examination Policy and relevant University Rules. For all approved University policies, procedures, guidelines and schedules visit

Accreditation Australian Institute of physics, every five years; last accreditation: October 2013

Inherent requirements are the essential components of a course or program necessary for a student to successfully achieve the core learning outcomes of a course or program. Students must meet the inherent requirements to complete their Macquarie University course or program.

Inherent requirements for Macquarie University programs fall under the following categories:

Physical: The physical inherent requirement is to have the physical capabilities to safely and effectively perform the activities necessary to undertake the learning activities and achieve the learning outcomes of an award.

Cognition: The inherent requirement for cognition is possessing the intellectual, conceptual, integrative and quantitative capabilities to undertake the learning activities and achieve the learning outcomes of an award.

Communication: The inherent requirement for communication is the capacity to communicate information, thoughts and ideas through a variety of mediums and with a range of audiences.

Behavioural: The behavioural inherent requirement is the capacity to sustain appropriate behaviour over the duration of units of study to engage in activities necessary to undertake the learning activities and achieve the learning outcomes of an award.

For more information see

2019 Unit Information

When offered:
S1 Day
Permission of Executive Dean of Faculty
HSC Chinese, CHN113, CHN148