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Astronomy GCSE

Pearson Edexcel

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The National Extension College was set up in 1963 to help widen participation in education and we understand the important contribution we can make during this unprecedented situation. In light of this, we are temporarily reducing the prices on our A level and GCSE courses*. 

  • GCSEs are reduced to £450 (Online enrolments enter code: NEC450)
  • A levels** are reduced to £650 (Online enrolments enter code: NEC650)
  • **A level History of Art and A level Further Maths are reduced to £750 (Online enrolments enter code: NEC750)

We encourage you to enrol online where possible applying the voucher codes outlined above. However, if you are looking to enrol on multiple courses, please email or speak to our Course Advice Team for information on our multi-buy discounts.

*Full terms and conditions can be found here.

Study GCSE Astronomy online and venture to distant galaxies.

From stars and constellations, the solar system and nebulae; to cosmology and space exploration; our interactive GCSE Astronomy online course will enable you to explore space through engaging resources, at your own pace.

Whether you’re a beginner, an experienced astronomer, or someone who wants to develop a deeper understanding of the Universe, our GCSE Astronomy online course will spark your curiosity and passion for learning through high quality materials and expert support from a course tutor.

Why study Astronomy?

As well as providing an excellent knowledge base in astronomy, our GCSE Astronomy online course is ideal if you:

  • Have an interest in space and the Universe
  • Plan to study observational astronomy and theoretical astronomy

Future opportunities

  • Studying Mathematics or Physics at A Level
  • A range of careers related to engineering, computer science, mathematics, through to medicine or law, education or business
  • Careers in astronomy

Course content

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 – Planetary motion and gravity

  • Solar and lunar cycles
  • Models of the Solar System
  • Kepler’s first and second laws
  • Kepler’s third law
  • Gravitation
Section: Practical Astronomy: observational tasks 
Choosing observational tasks
  • Introduction
  • What practical work do I need to do?
  • When should I carry out these tasks?

Preparing for the tasks

  • Introduction
  • What special resources will I need?
  • How should I plan my observations?
  • What do I need to record?
  • How should I report my observations?
  • What happens next?

Section 6 – Solar astronomy and the Earth-Sun-Moon system

  • Observing the Sun
  • The Sun’s interior
  • The solar atmosphere and the solar wind
  • Solar and lunar eclipses
  • Tides and precession
  • Diameters and distances

Section 7 – Time and cycles, the formation of the planets

  • Sidereal and synodic time
  • Lunar phases
  • The equation of time
  • Shadow sticks and sundials
  • Time zones and longitude
  • Interactions between celestial bodies
  • The formation of planetary systems
  • Exoplanets and life beyond Earth

Section 8 – Exploring starlight

  • Stellar magnitudes
  • Spectroscopy and the H-R diagram
  • Stellar distances
  • Variable stars
  • Radio telescopes
  • Observing in other wavelength regions

Section 9 – Stellar evolution and our place in the galaxy

  • TBC

Section 10 – Classification of galaxies and cosmology

  • TBC

Your learning experience

Study GCSE Astronomy with us and benefit from:

  • Flexible learning
  • 1:1 support from a personal tutor by email, phone or Skype
  • Any time enrolment
  • Our exam booking service
  • Assignments with tutor feedback
  • Ongoing support from the NEC team

learn@nec

Choose when and where you access your course, using learn@nec our 24/7 online learning platform.  

This easy-to-use platform includes interactive checkpoints, quizzes and activities to help you to evaluate your progress as you go.

Your tutor

Our course tutors

You’ll have access to 1:1 support from one of our tutors. All NEC tutors are subject experts, with experience in supporting online learners.

Meet Julie Houghton, one of our Astronomy Tutors.

“I love learning and inspiring other people to learn. I’ve worked with students from primary to undergraduate level as I have taught in schools and universities. Now, I specialise in home education and distance learning, teaching people in the UK and overseas. I have a degree in physics with astrophysics and a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) in physics, science and maths, both from the University of Birmingham, and an LLM in Law from the University of Leeds. A senior examiner for several exam boards, I am also a Member of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors.”

What you need to know

Exam board Edexcel 1ASO

Format

  • Online learning with 1:1 tutor support

Entry requirements

  • No formal qualifications
  • An ability to read and write in English

Hours

  • Complete at your own pace
  • Approx. 120-150* study hours, plus assignment time

*The specification suggests that 150 hours is needed. You’ll also need time to complete assignments and prepare yourself for exams and some courses like English literature involve a lot of reading. Everyone is different so it’s impossible to say with certainty how long a course will take you, but you should expect to spend longer than 150 hours. Taken across the length of time we recommend, this equates to approximately 4 hours per week. This will increase if you choose to take it over a shorter time frame or may be less if you are retaking a subject and have covered a lot of of the course content.

Assessment

  • Exams (two)
  • Observations (one aided, one unaided)

Discover more about our Exam Support in our Exam Handbook.

Assignments

  • 11 assignments (one introductory)

Resources

  • No additional set texts required

Requirements

  • Internet access
  • Computer operating system and browser to support learn@nec

What's included?

Our course fees are open and honest to help you plan for any additional costs.

Your course fee includes:

  • Access to learn@nec
  • All the course materials you need to complete the course
  • Support from a personal tutor for up to 18 months from your date of enrolment
  • Assignment marking
  • Guaranteed exam place
  • NEC’s guide to study skills: How to Succeed as an Independent Learner
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar guide
  • Time planner to help you plan your study timetable
  • Information on how to apply for exams

Your course fee does not cover:

  • Exam entry fee

Optional extras:

  • Further past paper marking
  • Revision tutorial
  • Optional tutorial
  • Additional review

Exams and assessment

  • Exams (two)
  • Observations (one aided, one unaided)

Additional support if you’re under 18

We know that our younger students often need an extra helping hand with their studies.  In our experience, learning online works best when the parents are involved, so when you enrol your child with NEC, you’ll have a unique set of services to help you to support your child.

This includes:

  • Your own log in to learn@nec to access the course so you can view the course materials and other information for yourself.
  • Access to your child’s gradebook to help you to monitor progress and provide appropriate and timely intervention and support
  • You’ll receive emails and forum posts so that you have all the examination and assessment updates/information provided by the NEC team
  • Dedicated Progress Portal Pages and targeted blogs with updates/information/help and advice on many aspects of home education.
  • Access to the Kudos career platform for young learners to explore career choices.

Read more about how we work with young students who are studying at home or through a school.