Astronomy GCSE

This course is launching in October. To register your interest, please contact or call us free from any UK landline on 0800 389 2839.

Explore the Universe and our position in it with this fascinating course. Starting with our own planet Earth, you will learn about our solar system and beyond. You’ll investigate the movements of planets and stars, how stars and planetry systems are formed and how we observe and interact with Space. With your own practical observations you will develop valuable scientific and mathematical skills.

This course is one of our new Gold Star GCSEs. Find out more about them here.



Course requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this course, but you will need the ability to carry out observations of the night sky. This is an online course so you will also need access to the internet.

Duration of study

It's really up to you but, as a guide, a GCSE course takes about 120-150 hours plus extra time for assignment work you submit to your tutor. You will have tutor support for a period of up to 18 months from the date of enrolment.


This course follows specification 1AS0 from the awarding organisation Edexcel. Full details of the specification can be obtained from Edexcel's website.


Section 1 - The planet Earth
  • The Earth
  • Latitude and longitude
  • The Earth's atmosphere
  • The night sky

Section 2 - Celestial observation
  • Constellations and asterisms
  • The celestial sphere
  • Diurnal motion
  • Circumpolar stars
  • Practical observing

Section 3 - The Moon and the solar system
  • The surface features of the Moon
  • The Moon's orbit
  • Exploration of the Moon
  • The origin of the Moon
  • Observing the planets
  • The apparent motion of the Sun

Section 4 - Exploring the solar system
  • Planets, dwarf planets and other solar system objects
  • Comets
  • Meteoroids and meteorites
  • The size of the solar system
  • Optical telescopes, Part 1
  • Optical telescopes, Part 2
  • Space probes

Section 5 - Early models of the solar system, planetary motion and gravity
  • TBC

Section 6 - Solar astronomy and the Earth-Sun-Moon system
  • TBC

Section 7 - Time and cycles, the formation of the planets
  • TBC

Section 8 - Exploring starlight
  • TBC

Section 9 - Stellar evolution and our place in the galaxy
  • TBC

Section 10 - Classification of galaxies and cosmology
  • TBC

Exams and assessment

Two exams:
  • 1 hour 45 minutes, 50% of marks
  • 1 hour 45 minutes, 50% of marks
  • In addition students must complete at least one unaided and one aided observation. You will find comprehensive guidance for carrying out observations in the course.

Non-exam assessment (NEA):
  • None


Assignments do not contribute towards your final grade but provide you with an opportunity to submit work to your tutor for marking and feedback. This will help you to gauge your progress as you work through the course.

This course has:
  • 1 introductory assignment
  • 10 assignments

Set texts and resources

There are no additional set texts.

Using learn@nec

Your course is delivered online through learn@nec, so it’s important that you have access to a computer and the internet. We recommend that your computer is using one of the following operating systems and browsers to improve your experience of using learn@nec:

Operating systems:
  • Windows 7 or later
  • Mac OSX 10.7 or later
  • Google Chrome OS
  • Android 4.4 or later, using the Chrome browser
  • iOS 6 or later, using the Safari browser

  • Google Chrome (latest version)
  • Mozilla Firefox (latest version)
  • Safari 6 or later
  • Internet Explorer 10 or later (excluding IE11)

learn@nec may work on other operating systems and browsers with some restrictions. You can see full details of the system requirements by clicking here.

Paying in instalments

It’s your choice: you can pay in full at the point of enrolment, or you can spread the cost over monthly instalments with our finance offer. To pay in instalments you will need to enrol by telephone.

Representative example:
Course fee:  
Amount of credit:  
Monthly payment:  
Duration of agreement:  
Total repayable:  
Rate of interest:  
0% APR representative.  
  6 months
  0% (fixed)

The National Extension College (NEC) is the trading name of the Open School Trust, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (register number 676788). Finance is provided through the Deko platform by a number of lenders. You will be offered the best rate available based on your credit history and the lenders’ credit decision policies.

Deko is a trading name of Pay4Later Ltd who act as a credit intermediary. They are registered in England and Wales (company number 06447333) and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (register number 728646). For more information please go to or visit

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