UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy


Rosette nebula, Phil Halper, Certificate alumnus


Certificate of Higher Education in Astronomy

CoVID-19 IMPORTANT UPDATE (September 2021)

Due to the extremely difficult working conditions imposed by the CoVID-19 pandemic at UCL, the start of the Certificate course has been postponed, *a restart date has yet to be confirmed*. The course format may be modified following the variable restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Update notices will be posted here.

Meanwhile, for registration details please visit our HOW TO APPLY page, where you will be able to leave your expression of interest. 

Thank you for your patience and understanding.


The UCL Certificate of Higher Education in Astronomy has been running for nearly 20 years with great success.

  • It is a two-year part-time evening course
  • There are no subject-related A-level entry requirements
  • It has much greater coverage of subjects than ordinary evening classes
  • Study in UCL's Physics and Astronomy Department – top-rated for teaching and research
  • One evening per week at UCL Bloomsbury campus from 6pm to 9pm
  • Conveniently located close to Euston Station in Central London
  • Practical sessions at our superbly equipped UCL Observatory at Mill Hill, north London
  • Suitable for keen amateur astronomers, teachers and everyone interested in learning more about astronomy
  • Endorsed by the Royal Astronomical Society and can be used as supportive ground for applying for an RAS fellowship

The Certificate in Astronomy, satisfies UK and European rules for Higher Education awards, as a Level 4 Course on The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications.



One of the most important concepts in observational Astronomy is the angular field or angular size. This is the angle formed by two lines of sight that diverge from the observer to reach two selected locations.

angular field


The following recent images give diverse examples of angular fields. 

Moon Venus and Pleiades

On this wide picture we see the overexposed image of the Moon above the tree and on the right, the planet Venus. Above it are the Pleiades. The angular distance beween the Moon and Venus was  7 degrees. The image (field of view) is around 60 degrees wide.


Venus and Pleiades 1

This is a picture from a small telescope showing an overexposed image of Venus in front of the Pleiades on the 3rd of April 2020. The field of view is around 2 degrees.


Venus and Pleiades 2

Venus and the Pleiades the following evening, showing that Venus had moved by one degree.


Thin crescent

Earth shine

Two telescopic images of the same crescent Moon. The longer exposure shows the mysterious earthshine, first explained by Leonardo da Vinci. The Moon (and by coincidence the Sun too) appears to have a diametre of half a degree.


Gibbous moon

Telescope image of the gibbous Moon


Sinus iridum

An enlargement from the previous picture shows the enigmatic bay of rainbows (Sinus Iridum, about 2.5 arcmin wide) .....

Coopernicus crater

... and the impact crater Copernicus, more than 90km wide (angular diametre of 50 arcsec). The field of view is about 7 arcmin wide.

Pink Moon

Telescopic image of the full moon of March 2020 (called the 'pink Moon')

Venus Martin Howe

Telescopic composite image of Venus (diametre 30 arcsec) by Martin Howe, certificate alumnus 2019.


Venus daytime low power

Crescent of Venus in daytime with a low power telescope. Field of view around one degree (19th May 2020).


Venus daytime with telescope

Daytime crescent Venus at medium power. Venus was 50 arcsec wide and the field of view was around 10 arcmin wide (25th May 2020).


Mercury daytime

Mercury in daytime seen with a telescope at medium power. Mercury was only 6 arcsec wide and the field of view was around 10 arcmin wide (22nd May 2020).

             Website last update:  20th September 2021