In order to successfully study one or both of the Open University’s Level 3 courses, S382 Astrophysics or S383 The Relativistic Universe, you should already be familiar with various topics in cosmology, astronomy, planetary science,
physics and mathematics. The level of skills, knowledge and understanding that we expect you to have when you embark on either of these courses is equivalent to the end-points of the OU’s Level 2 courses: S282 Astronomy, S283 Planetary Science and the Search for Life, SXR208 Observing the Universe, S207 The Physical World and MST209 Mathematical Methods and Models.

To ascertain whether or not you meet the required level before embarking on S382 and/or S383 you should work through the document entitled Are You Ready For S382 or S383? which is available from the Courses website. If, as a result of attempting the questions in that document, you realise that you need to revise your skills, knowledge and understanding in certain areas of mathematics, physics, cosmology, astronomy and planetary science, then you should study the relevant chapters of this document carefully.

There are five main chapters to this document – one each to introduce the astronomy and planetary science, the cosmology and the physics background, plus two chapters of mathematics. It is important to note that, because most of this document revisits concepts and phenomena that are covered in detail in Level 2 Open University courses, the treatment here is much less rigorous than in the courses themselves. For the most part, the subjects covered here are merely presented to you rather than developed gradually through detailed argument.

This is to enable you to get rapidly ‘to the point’ and appreciate the key information you need in order to understand what follows, and to allow you to progress quickly to the main substance of the Level 3 courses.