UCC Adult courses

An Introduction to Astronomy

Course Fact File
DurationBlock delivery – One weekend
Teaching ModePart-Time. See Additional Teaching Mode Information for more info.
NFQ Award Title5 ECTS Credits
Fees€70 See Fees and Costs for full details.
Closing DateTBC
Next IntakeTBC

Valentia Island, Co. Kerry 

Start DateTBC

Course Outline

The course will provide a basic introduction to astronomy, from an observational viewpoint, starting with the Earth and its local environment within the Solar System, moving to the Galaxy, and the Universe at large. The fundamental pieces of evidence underlining our current understanding of astronomy will be discussed. An introduction to the connection between archaeology and astronomy will be presented also. The course will consist of contact hours, self-study, and time using telescopes to observe the night sky. 

An Introduction to Astronomy: Professor Paul Callanan 

  • Astronomical History – the Geocentric and Heliocentric models of the Solar System:  Brahe, Kepler, Newton.
  • The Night Sky – the constellations, the pole star, the diurnal motion of the stars, the orbit of the Earth about the Sun, the seasons. Finding stars on the sky.
  • Time and calendars.
  • Astronomy and navigation. The Greenwich meridian.
  • Light – the electromagnetic spectrum. Reflecting and Refracting telescopes.
  • Telescope operation
  • Different types of Astronomy. Astronomy from Space.
  • The distance to stars – parallax.
  • Angles, angular separation*.
  • Small numbers, large numbers, powers-of-ten notation.*
  • Looking back in time with astronomy
  • The Solar System - planets, moons, comets, asteroids.
  • The Sun, eclipses.
  • Planets around other stars, the Habitable Zone.
  • Stars: distance, brightness, the magnitude system.
  • The colour and temperature of stars.
  • Stellar evolution – white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes.
  • The formation of the elements.
  • Galaxies and cosmology. Cepheids, the Doppler Shift and the expansion of the universe.
  • Black holes in other galaxies.
  • Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the fate of the Universe.

Archaeo-astronomy: Michael Connolly, Kerry County Archaeologist

  • Part 1: Origins of archaeo-astronomy; some misconceptions around archaeo-astronomy; importance of time in life of prehistoric peoples and how this changed in tandem with advances in technology and society; time & belief. I will also look at origin myths, prehistoric cosmologies and the important place of the heavens in these culture defining areas.
  • Part II: Monuments & Time: A run through the monument types in the general area that are associated with time and the beliefs arising from concepts of time (life/death etc.), controlling time, timelessness and  Tombs, Standing Stones, Stone Rows, Stone Circles, Rock Art & the Early Medieval monastic sites. As part of this section I will also run through the excavations I carried out at the Iochtar Cua stone row in 2014.

Additional Teaching Mode Information

This course is taught over one weekend. Dates to be confirmed. 

Course Practicalities

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

  • Have a working knowledge of the night sky – identify planets, major constellations and stars, by eye and with a telescope/binoculars.
  • Have an appreciation of the seasonally changing sky.
  • Understand the nature of planets, stars and galaxies.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the historical development of astronomy, and the some of the current outstanding questions.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the formation and evolution of the universe, including the evidence that underlines this knowledg


Continuous Assessment 100 marks (1 x 1,500 word report).

Who teaches on this course:

Professor Paul Callanan http://research.ucc.ie/profiles/D006/paulc

Michael Connolly, Kerry County Archaeologist http://kerrycoco.academia.edu/MichaelConnolly


  • Applicants must be at least 21 years of age by 1 January of the year of application.
  • While there are no formal educational requirements, it is expected that proposed candidates will have attained Leaving Certificate/FETAC Level 5 or an equivalent qualification.

Fees and Costs

The fee for this module is €70. This does not include accomodation costs.

How To Apply

Please contact Belinda Gascoigne for further information. Phone: 087 3751062 or email: skelligcri@ucc.ie


Contact Details For This Course

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