IB Astronomy (SL only)

Astronomy is only available as a standard level course within the IB (group 4)

It is most likely to appeal to two types of pupil

  • Those who are wanting a group 4 subject to complete the IB but for whom the traditional science subjects do not appeal. For these pupils, perhaps Astronomy will offer a fresh and interesting subject.
  • Higher level Physics students in the IB who would like to take two group 4 subjects to play to their strengths. These pupils will find that Astronomy supports their Physics studies and vice versa.

The course is split into 4 units.

The Stars

This topic looks at our star, the Sun, and the processes by which it functions. The topic goes on to examine how we can measure stars and deduce their luminosity, size, mass etc…

Finally the topic looks at the life of stars from their birth from a collapsing nebula through its main-sequence lifetime and ultimate demise and possible supernova forming white dwarfs, neutron stars or even black holes.

The Planets

This topic discusses different theories to explain the formation of the solar system. It continues with a discussion of how life began on Earth and why the conditions of Venus and Mars are so different. We then consider how life has subsequently changed the Earth’s atmosphere further.

The topic finishes with a consideration of the search for extra-terrestrial life and how we might identify environments where life could exist and how we might detect it.


The topic starts with an examination of our own galaxy as a basis on which to describe other galaxies, The topic continues to examine how other galaxies are classified and how they differ. this sub-topic concludes with an examination of the evidence for galactic dark matter and what the options for it are.

The topic then considers active galaxies, what they are and how they are important to our understanding of the beginnings of the universe.


The final topic examines the largest scales of all from the large scale structures of the universe and the fundamental shape of space-time. The topic examines the birth, life and ultimate death of the universe and our observations and evidence for these theories.