Research course

Star formation

Open University · School of Physical Sciences

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 degree in physics or a related subject (or equivalent)

Months of entry

October, February

Course content

This observationally focused topic examines the formation of massive stars in our galaxy. The formation of massive young stars is often triggered by ionised gas regions that expand into their surrounding gas and molecular clouds, ‘triggering’ a next generation of stars. Alternatively, in a less violent way following the collapse of gas and small solid particles of dust, the material in the galaxy that is available to form stars condenses into filaments that fragment and collapse under their self-gravity to form low mass stars. Using powerful telescopes on Earth and in space, observational research in this area is aimed at measuring the structure, energy balance and chemistry in the diffuse/dense interface, measuring the distributions of the material that stars are born into, and measuring the detailed microphysics of how they self-assemble to form the next generation(s) of stars and planetary systems. These observations will be made using the world’s leading far-infrared and submillimetre wavelength telescopes, such as the European Space Agency’s Herschel and Planck space telescopes, the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre Array) in Chile, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, and the pan-European LOFAR (Low Frequency Array) telescopes.

Potential research projects

We welcome enquiries from prospective students in the following areas:

  • Binarity among massive stars
  • The birth of high mass stars
  • The astrophysics of the Centre of the Galaxy
  • Low mass star formation, and the role of interstellar filaments
  • Unveiling the dust-gas synergy in the interstellar medium
  • The effect of young stars on the matter in their environment: cold and warm dense structures in the interstellar medium

Projects currently on offer may be found here.

Information on recent research projects

Potential supervisors

Fees and funding

See The Open University website

Qualification and course duration


full time
15 months
part time
24 months
distance learning
variable months


full time
36 months
part time
72 months
distance learning
variable months

Course contact details

Administrative support
+44 (0)1908 659036