Centre for Continuing Education

Quarks to the Cosmos Course: Ten Great Discoveries in Modern Astronomy and Physics

Astronomy. Reach for the stars.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses online and in-person. Please check the delivery format of each class before enrolling.

Please note that course materials (excluding prescribed texts) are shared electronically within 48 hours of course commencement. Printing is not available.

Join some of our leading astronomers and physicists in this series of special lectures about ten “big ideas” in modern astronomy and physics.

Exploring topics from subatomic physics to black holes and cosmology, and discussing some of the latest research, this course will bring you up-to-date on recent discoveries in our understanding of the universe. Leading researchers from the University of Sydney’s School of Physics present their recent work in an accessible fashion.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • describe current open questions in our understanding of the universe
  • put recent Nobel Prize awards in the context of this research
  • appreciate the nature of research and how astronomers and physicists use observations to construct theories of the universe
  • appreciate how new technologies and new ideas are revolutionising modern research.


Week 1: Using stellar oscillations to probe their interiors, Professor Tim Bedding

Week 2: Breakthrough! The detection of gravitational waves from a neutron star merger, Professor Tara Murphy

Week 3: Planets beyond our solar system – how to find them and the search for life, Barnaby Norris (TBA)

Week 4: The 2018 Nobel prize in physics: optical tweezers and ultra-fast lasers, Dr Shelley Wickham

Week 5: Taming quantum mechanics, Dr Arne Grimsmo

Week 6: What do galaxies and shadow puppets have in common?, Jesse van de Sande

Week 7: Black Holes, Professor Joss Bland Hawthorn

Week 8: The Higgs boson, its discovery and what we have learnt since, Professor Kevin Varvell

Week 9: Nonlinear physics: from misbehaving springs to rogue waves, Dr Tristram Alexander

Week 10: The new astronomies, Associate Professor Helen Johnston

Note: This timetable is subject to change pending changes to facilitator availability.

Intended audience

Anyone with an interest in astronomy who would like to know more about our universe.


A basic knowledge of astronomy is recommended but not essential.

Delivery style

Weekly classes delivered over a period of ten weeks.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

We acknowledge the tradition of custodianship and law of the Country on which the University of Sydney campuses stand. We pay our respects to those who have cared and continue to care for the Country.