A-Level Assistance

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A-level (ages 16-18) Physics has an Astrophysics or Cosmology option. You should already have a copy of your syllabus. If not, ask your teacher. A syllabus cannot teach you, however, so here I have gathered links to resources that I found invaluable when teaching Cosmology to sixth formers.

The links below are intended to offer additional guidance whilst you are studying the course, or afterwards for revision purposes:

Models of the Known Universe

Jupiter and MoonsYou should study:
  • The work and models of Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo. [ link ]
  • Applying Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation to derive Kepler's Third Law. [ link ]
  • Predicting the existence of the Outer Planets from perturbations. [ link ]
  • The contents of the Solar System. [ link ]
  • The definitions of the astronomical unit (AU), parsec (pc) and light year (ly).

Click here for some questions on these topics!

Stars and Galaxies

Pleiades star clusterThis is a very large topic, but you should know about: [ General Link ]
  • the magnitude (brightness) scales of stars + galaxies [ link ]
  • the temperature of stars, and how they can be determined. [ link ]
  • how stars evolve over time. [ link ]
  • the different structure of galaxies. [ link ]

The Evolving Universe

Radio TelescopeYou should know:
  • about line spectra (emission + absorption) [link]
  • Doppler shift [ link | link ]
  • Hubble's law [ link ]
  • Olbers' "paradox". [ link | link ]
  • the Colsmological Principle [ link ]
  • how the age of the Universe can be determined. [ link ]
  • how the Universe evolved from the Big Bang to the present

Top Right ^^

Observational Techniques

Large Telescope You should know that:
  • stars and galaxies emit a wide range of electromagnetic (EM) radiation, whereas planets merely reflect light from the Sun.
  • only certain types of EM radiation make it through the Earth's atmosphere. [ link ]
  • improved observation of radiation can be obtained by positioning telescopes on top of mountains, or in orbit. [ link ]
  • cutting-edge astronomical research is expensive, and could perhaps be better spent.

Special Relativity

Oddity You should know: [ General Link ]
  • why the concept of the ether was put forward to explain the propagation of EM waves. [ link ]
  • the principles of the Michelson Morley experiment, and why its null result is so important. [ link ]
  • Einstein's two postulates of Special Relativity.[ link | link ]
  • how to descirbe thought experiments of time dilation and length contraction. [ link | link ]
  • why the observed half life of atmospheric muons agrees with time dilation. [ link ]
  • understand the equation E = mc², and be able to apply it to explain why there is a maximum attainable speed, c, for a body with mass. [ link ]


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Last updated Sunday 1st June 2003

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