Astronomy through the Ages


Designed to explore fundamental questions of humanity’s existence and place in the universe, the study of astronomy is one thread in a tapestry that includes history, culture, and religion.  Following this thread from a scientific perspective, we will look at the advancement of astronomical instrumentation, theory, and observation across time, culminating in the state of the science today.  We will also touch on the cross-threads of history, culture, and religion and their impact on astronomical research and exploration.

Programme details

Session 1

Building the Celestial Sphere I – Cataloguing the Heavens

Session 2

Building the Celestial Sphere II – The Sun and Moon

Session 3

Building the Celestial Sphere III – The Visible Planets

Session 4

Motions of the Celestial Sphere – Developing the Calendar

Session 5

Early Observatories – Aligning with the Heavens

Session 6

Early Instrumentation – Celestial Navigation

Session 7

Advent of the Telescope – The Nature of Light

Session 8

Modern Telescopes – Beyond the Visible

Session 9

Our Place in the Universe I – The Solar System and Celestial Mechanics

Session 10

Our Place in the Universe II – Stars and Galaxies

Session 11

Our Place in the Universe III – Cosmology

Session 12

Weaving the Tapestry – A Timeline 


* Please note that the cost of any fieldtrips is included in the course fee.


Description Costs
Programme Fee (No Accommodation - inc. Tuition, Lunch & Dinner) £850.00
Programme Fee (Standard Single Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1485.00
Programme Fee (Standard Twin Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1245.00
Programme Fee (Superior Single Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1600.00
Programme Fee (Superior Twin Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1345.00


All fees are charged on a per week, per person basis.

Please be aware that all payments (and refunds) are subject to exchange rates at the time of processing.

Payment terms

  • If enrolling online: full payment by credit/debit card at the time of booking

  • If submitting an application form: full payment online by credit/debit card or via bank transfer within 30 days of invoice date

Cancellations and refunds

Participants who wish to cancel must inform the Programme Administrator in writing: by email to or by post to OUSSA, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK.

The following cancellation and refund policy applies in all cases:

  • Cancellation within 14 days of online enrolment / payment of fees – full refund of all fees paid

  • Cancellations received up to and including 31 May 2021 – OUDCE will retain an administration fee of £100 per week booked; all other fees paid will be refunded.

  • Cancellations received between 1-30 June 2021 – OUDCE will retain 60% of the fees paid; the remaining 40% of fees paid will be refunded.

  • Cancellations received on and after 1 July 2021 - no refunds will be made.

    Important note: You need to take out travel insurance to cover the programme fee and travel costs.


Dr Elizabeth Charlton


Elizabeth Charlton has a doctorate in physics specialising in astronomy and astrophysics with areas of interest that include the use of radio astronomy techniques to study magnetic effects in star formation regions and the use of planetaria in multidisciplinary education.  She continues her involvement in physics and astronomy education working with OUSSA and OUDCE teaching astronomy subjects.

Course aims

This course aims to follow the progression of the study of astronomy from the scientific perspective, while also examining the impact of history, culture, and religion on the advancement of astronomical research and exploration.

Teaching methods

All summer school courses are taught through group seminars and individual tutorials. Students also conduct private study when not in class and there is a well stocked library at OUDCE to support individual research needs.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be expected to understand:

  • The early organization and cataloguing of the stars and constellations and the development of the celestial sphere
  • The motions of the celestial sphere and the astronomical objects within and the development of the calendar
  • The astronomical orientations and alignments of early observatories
  • The progression of the development of astronomical instrumentation and the nature of light

Assessment methods

Students are assessed during the summer school by either a 1500 word written assignment or a presentation supported by individual documentation. To successfully gain credit (10 CATS points) students should attend all classes and complete the on-course assignment. There is also a pre-course assignment of 1000 words set. Although this does not count towards credit, it is seen as an important way of developing a student's ideas and therefore its completion is mandatory.


To enrol online, click 'Book Now', above.  To enrol by post, please see details of the application process.

Covid-19 guidance for summer school participants

Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of participants is our highest priority. We've introduced a range of measures to protect you when you are in university and college buildings, in accordance with University and UK government guidelines. These measures may include: enhanced cleaning regimes and additional facilities for hand washing and hand sanitising; spaces adapted to support social distancing with clear signage and markings; a requirement for the wearing of face coverings during in-person teaching and in indoor shared spaces.

You'll be required to follow University and UK government guidelines whilst in Oxford, and to sign a ‘Student Responsibility Agreement’ in advance of the course, confirming that you will do so (this will be similar to the version for University students, which you can review online).  Further information is available at You should particularly review the University’s Face Coverings policy, which you will need to comply with at all times on University property.

If UK government regulations require you to quarantine on arrival in the UK, then you will need to arrange this yourself at your own expense. Unfortunately, we aren’t permitted to let you quarantine in University accommodation. Travel is not encouraged – and may not be permitted – if you are travelling from or through a country on the UK government’s ‘red list’.

If we have to cancel your course

Should it be necessary to cancel your course, we will make every reasonable effort to give you as much notice of cancellation as possible, and we will refund all course fees paid by you (including the cost of accommodation, if booked through us as part of your course). Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than in pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the date they are processed.

The Department cannot be held responsible for any costs you may incur in relation to travel or accommodation bookings as a result of a course cancellation, or if you are unable to attend the course for any other reason. You are advised to check cancellation policies carefully and to purchase travel insurance.