Module Overview

Astronomy, Environmental & Energy Physics

The first part of the module is an introduction to astronomy. It will apply basic physics concepts that the learner has already encountered (e.g., centripetal acceleration) to space-related phenomena. It will also introduce new concepts required to deal with these phenomena. It will allow the learner to see how the fundamental physics they have already obtained can be applied to the extreme environments encountered, with particular those within our own solar system.

The second part of this module will deal with the physics of the environment and renewable energy. The first part of this section will look at the global energy budget, the greenhouse effect, global warming and its implications. The second part of this section will look energy use in Ireland and investigate various forms of renewable energy and nuclear power.

Module Code

PHYS 1704

ECTS Credits


*Curricular information is subject to change

Astronomy element

•    The Scientific Method
An introduction to the philosophy and methods of science, including deductive and inductive logic, empiricism, falsification theory, the verification theory, Gödel’s theorem, “theories”, “hypotheses” and “laws”. The steps involved in the scientific method.

•    The Universe
The Earth’s place in the solar system, the Galaxy and the Cosmos.

•    The Night Sky
The celestial sphere, coordinate systems (altitude/azimuth and right ascension/declination), astronomical nomenclature, Messier and NGC objects. The seasons, equinoxes and solstices. Using the naked eye to find some of the major constellations and brighter stars and deep space objects. Distinguishing a star from a planet without a telescope. Using the stars to find north and estimate your latitude on the Earth.

•    Introduction to the Magnitude Scale
Apparent magnitude, luminosity, intensity and Stefan’s law.

•    A Tour of the Solar System
The Sun, the inner planets, the outer planets and small solar-system bodies. The formation of the solar system.

•    Celestial Mechanics
Kepler’s Laws of planetary motion, Newton’s Law of Gravitation, circular motion, escape velocity, the acceleration due to gravity, planetary density.


Renewable Energy & Environmental Physics element

•    Introduction: The Global energy budget. The solar constant, Wein’s displacement law and the Stefan-Boltzmann law.

•    Greenhouse effect & global warming: Greenhouse effect, greenhouse gases and their concentrations, trends and predictions, effect of global warming and evidence for it.

•    Solar power: Passive and active solar heating. Photovoltaics

•    Wind Power: Power in the wind, Betz limit, turbine types, turbine power characteristics, noise and other environmental considerations.

•    Wave, Tidal and Hydropower: types of wave power device and developments in Ireland, Barrage and tidal current tidal devices. Reaction and impulse turbines in hydropower. Classification of hydropower plants

•    Geothermal power: Dry steam, flash, and binary power plants.

•    Nuclear power: The atom and the nucleus. Isotopes. Stable and unstable nuclei. Nuclear decay and radioactivity. Energy-mass conversion. Types of nuclear power plants. Basic fission physics and nuclear waste issues.


Lectures, tutorials, external assignments, laboratory activities, computer laboratory and/or in-class assessments.

Module Content & Assessment
Assessment Breakdown %
Other Assessment(s)100