Specification

 

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Earth, Moon & Sun

1.1 - Planet Earth
Earth
Describe features of the Earth that distinguish it from other planets, including its water surface and atmosphere Welcome to Earth
Relate the blue sky to the preferential scattering of light in its atmosphere Blue Sky
Demonstrate an understanding of the benefits of the Earth’s atmosphere to humankind Atmosphere
Describe some of the major causes of light pollution and demonstrate an understanding of why it is undesirable to astronomers Light Pollution
Describe how Eratosthenes made the first accurate calculation of the circumference of the Earth Size
Recall the shape (oblate spheroid/flattened sphere) and diameter (13 000 km) of the Earth Shape
Describe the evidence that the Earth is approximately spherical Shape
Recall the rotation period of the Earth (23 hours 56 minutes) and the time to rotate through 1 degree (4 minutes) Rotation
Demonstrate an understanding of the terms: equator, tropics, latitude, longitude, pole, horizon, meridian and zenith Terms
- Equator & Tropics
- Latitude & Longitude
- Pole & Zenith
- Horizon & Meridian
Demonstrate an understanding of the drawbacks to astronomers of the Earth’s atmosphere and relate these to the need for optical and infrared observatories to be sited on high mountains or in space Atmosphere
Describe the features of reflecting and reflecting telescopes (detailed ray diagrams not needed) Telescopes
Demonstrate an understanding of why the world’s largest telescopes are reflectors rather than refractors Telescopes
Demonstrate an understanding that the Earth’s atmosphere is transparent to visible light, microwaves and some radio waves Atmosphere
Interpret data on the effect of the Earth’s atmosphere on infrared, ultra-violet and X-rays Wavelengths
Describe where infrared, ultra-violet and X-ray observatories are sited and explain the reasons why Wavelengths
Describe the nature and discovery of the Van Allen Belts. Aurorae
1.2 - The Moon
Moon
Identify the Moon’s principal features, including the Sea of Tranquility, Ocean of Storms, Sea of Crises, the craters Tycho, Copernicus and Kepler, and the Apennine mountain range (Latin names are acceptable) Features
- Seas and Oceans
- Craters
- Mountains
Recall the Moon’s diameter (3 500 km) and its approximate distance from Earth (380 000 km) Size & Distance
Recall that the Moon’s rotational period and orbital period are both 27.3 days Rotation & Orbit
Demonstrate an understanding of why the far side of the Moon is not visible from Earth Far Side
Describe how astronomers know the appearance of the Moon’s far side and how it differs from the near side Far Side
Distinguish between the lunar seas (maria) and highlands (terrae) Maria & Terrae
Demonstrate an understanding of the origin of lunar seas and craters - Maria & Terrae
- Craters
Demonstrate an understanding that the relative numbers of craters in the seas and highlands implies different ages of these features Maria & Terrae
Describe the nature of rilles and wrinkle ridges Rilles & Ridges
Relate the lack of atmosphere to the Moon’s low gravity Gravity
Describe the nature and purposes of the Apollo space programme and its experimental packages (ALSEPs) Apollo
Describe the likely origin of the Moon (the giant impact hypothesis) Origin
Describe the evidence that allowed astronomers to develop the giant impact hypothesis. Origin
1.3 - The Sun
Sun
Demonstrate an understanding of how the Sun can be observed safely by amateur astronomers Sun Safety
Recall the Sun’s diameter (1.4 million km) and its distance from Earth (150 million km) 1.3 The Sun
Recall the temperature of the Sun’s photosphere (5 800 K) Temperature
Describe the solar atmosphere (chromosphere and corona) and Recall the approximate temperature of the corona (2 million K) Temperature
Describe the appearance and explain the nature of sunspots Sunspots
Recall that the Sun’s rotation period varies from 25 days at the equator to 36 days at its poles Sun Rotation
Demonstrate an understanding of how astronomers use observations of sunspots to determine the Sun’s rotation period Sunspots
Interpret data (for example a Butterfly Diagram) in order to Describe the long-term latitude drift of sunspots, determine the length of the solar cycle and predict the year of the next solar maximum Sunspots
Demonstrate an understanding that the Sun’s energy is generated by nuclear fusion reactions at its core, converting hydrogen into helium Nuclear Fusion
Describe how astronomers observe the Sun at different wavelengths Wavelengths
Demonstrate an understanding of the appearance of the Sun at different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, including visible, H-alpha, X-ray Wavelengths
Describe the structure and nature of the solar wind. Aurorae
1.4 - Interactions
Interactions
Demonstrate an understanding that the Moon and Sun appear to be the same size when viewed from Earth Size from Earth
Recall the period of the lunar phase cycle (29.5 days) Lunar Phases
Demonstrate an understanding of lunar phases and deduce the lunar phase cycle from given data Lunar Phases
use diagrams to explain why the lunar phase cycle is (2.2 days) longer than the orbit period of the Moon Lunar Phases
Describe the appearance of partial and total solar and lunar eclipses Solar
Lunar
Describe, using diagrams, the mechanisms causing solar and lunar eclipses Diagrams
Demonstrate an understanding that the duration of total solar and lunar eclipses are different and that they do not occur every new and full Moon Eclipses
Duration
Describe the terms ‘solar day’ and ‘sidereal day’ The Day
Explain why a solar day is longer than a sidereal day The Day
Interpret simple shadow stick data to determine local noon and observer’s longitude Shadow Stick
Describe how a sundial can be used to determine time Sundial
Interpret charts and diagrams showing the variation in daylight length during a year Daylight
Demonstrate an understanding that there are seasonal variations in the rising and setting of the Sun Seasons
Demonstrate an understanding of the terms ‘apparent Sun’ and ‘mean Sun Apparent - Mean Sun
Demonstrate an understanding of the term ‘equation of time’ (apparent solar time — mean solar time) and perform simple calculations Equation of Time
EOT calculations
Describe aurorae and Recall from where on Earth they are most likely to be observed Aurorae
Explain how aurorae are caused. Aurorae

Planetary Systems

2.1 - Our Solar System
Describe the location and nature of the main constituents of our Solar System, including planets, dwarf planets, asteroids, comets, centaurs and Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) 2-1_solar_system
- planets
- dwarfplanets
- asteroids
- comets
- centaurs
- tno
Recall the names of planets and dwarf planets in order of their mean distance from the Sun - planets
- mercury
- venus
- earth
- mars
- jupiter
- saturn
- uranus
- neptune
Demonstrate an understanding of the scale and size of our Solar System using scale models (for example balls of different sizes at appropriate spacing, model Solar Systems such as the Spaced Out project) orbits
Recall that the ecliptic is the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun ecliptic
Demonstrate an understanding that one astronomical unit (AU) is the mean distance between the Earth and Sun. au
Recall that planets move in elliptical orbits, slightly inclined to the ecliptic ecliptic
Demonstrate an understanding that the planets appear to move within a band called the Zodiac ecliptic
Demonstrate an understanding of the direct and retrograde motion of planets on a star chart motion
Demonstrate an understanding of the terms: perihelion, aphelion, greatest elongation, conjunction, opposition, transit and occultation terms
- perihelionaphelion
- greatestelongation
- conjunctionopposition
- transitoccultation
Describe the main physical characteristics of the planets (including surface features, atmosphere, temperature and composition) - planets
-
Discuss how the atmosphere of Venus can be used to illustrate the danger of extreme global warming. globalwarming
Describe how astronomers use space probes to gain data on the characteristics of planets and other bodies in the Solar System unmanned
Demonstrate an understanding of some of the problems that would be encountered by a manned exploration of our Solar System manned
Demonstrate an understanding that some planets have satellite systems with a variety of origins and structures (including Mars and Neptune) satellites
Describe the appearance, physical nature and composition of planetary ring systems. rings
2.2 - Comets + Meteors
Describe cometary orbits and distinguish them from planetary orbits cometorbits
Describe the location and nature of the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud and show an appreciation of their associations with comets beltsclouds
Describe some of the evidence for the existence of the Oort Cloud beltsclouds
Identify the nucleus, coma, dust and ion tails of comets comets
Demonstrate an understanding that the tails of comets develop when relatively close to the Sun comets
Demonstrate an understanding of the mechanisms for the development of cometary dust and ion tails comets
Describe the nature and origin of meteoroids, meteorites and micrometeorites - 2-2_comets_meteors
- meteortypes
Demonstrate an understanding of meteors, fireballs and annual meteor showers meteorshowers
Relate the occurrence of annual meteor showers to cometary orbits and account for their apparent divergence from a radiant point meteorshowers
Describe the orbits of Potentially Hazardous Objects (PHOs) phos
Demonstrate an appreciation of the need to monitor the motion of PHOs phos
Demonstrate an appreciation of the potential consequences of a collision between an impactor and the Earth impact
Describe how astronomers gather evidence of impacts between bodies within the Solar System and consider their effects. impact
2.3 - Discoveries
Describe the contribution of Copernicus, Tycho and Kepler to our understanding of the Solar System astronomers
copernicus
tycho
kepler
Illustrate Kepler's second law of planetary motion with the aid of a diagram keplerslaws
keplers2ndlaw

Demonstrate an understanding of Kepler's third law relating planetary distances to orbital periods and perform simple calculations using the formula: T2 = R3 where T is in years and R is in AU keplers3rdlaw
Recall the main astronomical discoveries of Galileo related to the Solar System: i phases and apparent size of Venus ii relief features of the Moon iii principal satellites of Jupiter (Callisto, Europa, Ganymede, Io)

galileo
Describe the discoveries of Ceres, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto and the techniques involved discoveries
ceres
uranusplanet
neptuneplanet
pluto
Demonstrate an understanding that gravity is the force responsible for maintaining orbits and its inverse square law nature. gravityandinverse
2.4 - Exoplanets
Describe how astronomers obtain evidence for the existence of exoplanets (including astrometry, transit observations and use of Doppler-shifts)
exoplanet
Discuss the difficulties associated with the detection of individual planets exoplanet
Demonstrate an understanding that the presence of liquid water is probably an essential requirement for life water
Describe the present theories about the origin of water on Earth water
Describe methods used by astronomers to determine the origin of water on Earth (for example analysis of water on a comet by the Rosetta probe) water
Demonstrate an understanding of the individual factors contained in the Drake Equation and their implications for the existence of life elsewhere in our Galaxy drakeequation
Demonstrate an understanding of the existence and significance of habitable zones/Goldilocks zones goldilockszone
Describe some of the methods that astronomers use to obtain evidence for life (past or present) elsewhere in our Solar System life
Discuss the possible benefits and dangers of discovering extraterrestrial life. helloaliens

Stars

3.1 - Constellations
Describe the appearance of stars, double stars, asterisms, constellations, open clusters, nebulae and globular clusters in the night sky appearance
Demonstrate an understanding of how stars within a constellation are labelled according to brightness (using Greek letters a to e) labelling
Demonstrate an awareness of how the official list of constellations became established and cultural differences in this list list
Recognise and draw the Plough, Orion, Cygnus and Cassiopeia draw
Demonstrate the use of ‘pointers’ and other techniques to find other celestial objects, including:
i Arcturus and Polaris from the Plough ii Sirius, Aldebaran and the Pleiades from Orion iii Fomalhaut and the Andromeda Galaxy from the Great Square of Pegasus
pointers
Demonstrate an understanding that some constellations are visible from a given latitude throughout the year, but others are seasonal. seasonal
3.2 - Observing the Sky
Demonstrate an understanding of the terms ‘right ascension’ and ‘declination’ celestialsphere
Recall the declination of Polaris (+90 degrees) and explain why Polaris appears fixed in the night sky polaris
Demonstrate an understanding that the elevation of Polaris above the northern horizon is equal to the latitude of the observer polaris
Describe what is meant by the term ‘circumpolar stars’ and explain the connection between the apparent motion of stars and the Earth’s rotation circumpolarstars
Demonstrate an understanding that a star will be circumpolar from a given latitude provided declination > 90 – latitude circumpolarstars
Analyse and Interpret long-exposure photographs of star trails to determine the rotation period of the Earth startrails
Demonstrate the use of a planisphere, star chart or computer software in order to plan an observing session charts
Demonstrate an understanding of the terms ‘ecliptic’ and ‘zodiacal band’ on a star chart charts
Plan the equipment needed for a naked-eye observation session (red torch, clipboard, pencil/rubber, warm clothes) equipment
Demonstrate an awareness of naked-eye observing techniques (dark-adapted eye, relaxed eye and averted vision) viewingtechniques
Demonstrate an awareness of, and use in a qualitative way, the Messier Catalogue messiercatalogue
Explain the apparent east-west motion of the night sky east-westmotion
Recall that stars cross the observer’s meridian and culminate when they are due south meridian
Use star data and charts to determine the time at which a star will cross the observer’s meridian. meridian
3.3 - Physical Properties
Demonstrate an understanding that stars in a constellation are not physically related but that stars in a cluster are associated gravitationally clusters
Distinguish between optical double stars and binary stars doublestars
Demonstrate an understanding of the apparent magnitude scale and how it relates to observed brightness of stars apparent
Use the scale of apparent magnitude apparent
Describe the method of heliocentric parallax to determine distances to nearby stars distances
Recall the definition of one parsec (pc) distances
Recall the definition of absolute magnitude absolute
Demonstrate an understanding of the inverse square law nature of the intensity of light inversesquarelaw
Demonstrate an understanding of, and perform simple calculations involving, apparent magnitude (m), absolute magnitude (M) and distance (d in pc), using this formula: M = m + 5 – 5 log d involving powers of 10 only (students are not required to calculate d using this equation, only M and m) magnitude
apparent
absolute
magnitudecalculations
Identify a Cepheid variable star from its light curve and deduce its period cepheidlightcurves
Explain how Cepheid variables can be used to determine distance cepheids
Identify a binary star from the light curve and deduce its period binarystarlightcurve
Explain the causes of variability in the light curve of a binary star binarystarlightcurve
Demonstrate an understanding of what information can be obtained from a spectrum, including chemical composition, temperature and radial velocity spectrum
Demonstrate an understanding of how stars can be classified according to their spectral type spectrum
classification
Demonstrate an understanding that a star’s colour is related to its temperature classification
Sketch and recognise the main components of the Hertzsprung- Russell diagram (HR diagram). hrdiagram
3.4 - Evolution of Stars
Associate the stages of evolution of a star:
i with a solar mass
ii with a much greater mass with the components of the HR diagram
3-4_evolution
hrdiagram
Demonstrate an understanding that emission nebulae, absorption nebulae and open clusters are associated with the birth of stars starbirth
Demonstrate an understanding that planetary nebulae and supernovae are associated with the death of stars stardeath
Describe the nature of neutron stars and black holes neutronstars
blackholes
Describe how astronomers obtain evidence for the existence of neutron stars and black holes.
neutronstars
blackholes

Galaxies

4.1 - The Milky Way
Describe the appearance of the Milky Way as seen with the naked eye and with binoculars or a small telescope 4.1 - Our Galaxy - the Milky Way
Demonstrate an understanding that the observed Milky Way forms the plane of our own Galaxy 4.1 - Our Galaxy - the Milky Way
Demonstrate an understanding of the size and shape of our Galaxy and the location of the Sun, dust, sites of star formation and globular clusters Size & Shape
Demonstrate an understanding of how astronomers use 21 cm radio waves rather than visible light to determine the rotation of our Galaxy. Rotation
4.2 - Galaxies
Demonstrate an understanding of the appearance of spiral, barred spiral, elliptical and irregular galaxies Types +
Draw Hubble’s Tuning Fork diagram Hubble's Tuning Fork
Recall that the Milky Way is an Sb type galaxy Hubble's Tuning Fork
Use images of galaxies in order to classify them Gallery
Demonstrate an understanding that some galaxies emit large quantities of radiation in addition to visible light (for example radio waves, X-rays) Radiation & Active Galaxies
Demonstrate an understanding that an Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN) is powered by matter falling onto a super-massive black hole Radiation & Active Galaxies
Recall the types of active galaxies, including Seyfert galaxies, blazers, quasars Radiation & Active Galaxies
Demonstrate an understanding that astronomers use many regions of the electromagnetic spectrum to obtain evidence for the existence and properties of AGNs Radiation & Active Galaxies
Describe the Local Group of galaxies Groups
Recall the names of some galaxies in the Local Group, including the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and the Triangulum Galaxy (M33) Groups
Demonstrate an understanding that galaxies are grouped in larger clusters and superclusters. Groups
4.3 - Cosmology
Recall the Doppler principle for radial velocities Doppler & Redshift
Demonstrate an understanding that light from distant galaxies is shifted to longer wavelengths (redshift) Doppler & Redshift
Use the equation: to determine the radial velocity of a galaxy Velocity
Demonstrate an understanding that for galaxies in the Local Groupblueshift is possible Doppler & Redshift
Recall that quasars are distant galaxies with high redshifts Doppler & Redshift
Describe the discovery of quasars by astronomers Quasars
Demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between distance and redshift of distant galaxies (Hubble’s Law) and use the formula: v = Hd Hubble's Law
Describe how astronomers use the value of the Hubble Constant to determine the age of the Universe Hubble's Law & Constant
Demonstrate an understanding of the existence and significance of cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation CMB
Describe how CMB radiation was discovered CMB
Describe recent observations of CMB radiation, including the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), and their significance to cosmologists CMB
Demonstrate an understanding of the possible nature and significance of dark matter Dark Matter & Energy
Demonstrate an understanding of the significance of dark energy Dark Matter & Energy
Demonstrate an understanding of the observational evidence for an expanding Universe Expanding Universe
Demonstrate an understanding of the past evolution of the Universe and the main arguments in favour of the Big Bang Big Bang
Demonstrate an awareness of the different evolutionary models of the Universe (past and future) and why cosmologists are unable to agree on a model. Universe Models