Gravity and Cosmology

Heavens Kitchen screenshot

How do we measure masses of astronomical objects? What is Dark Matter and how do we know it’s there? How did the Universe begin?

All these questions can be addressed with relatively straightforward observations and maths suitable for school students. A number of resources are available below, including Heavens’ Kitchen, a Universe simulator.

Heaven’s Kitchen

Heavens’ Kitchen allows you to create your own Universe, with various amounts of normal matter, dark matter and dark energy. It then shows how observations of your Universe would compare with those we make of our own Universe, such as the Cosmic Microwave Background and the distribution of galaxies.

At the beginning of the simulation, you can alter the initial amounts of normal matter, total matter, and dark energy, to see what kind of Universe your ingredients create.

Download and Installation

Download link (zip) [Warning: This is an 800MB download!]
Unzip the file to get the Heavens’ Kitchen Java application

Hints and tips

  • You will need Java 1.6 or later already installed – this should be standard on most modern machines.
  • If you are using Windows, you should simply be able to double-click on JavaApplication2.jar, which should be in the directory you unzipped to.
  • Under Linux or a Mac, you may be able to double click on the application, though you can also type ‘java -jar JavaApplication2.jar’ to run the program from the command line
  • It’s designed to run at 1024×768 resolution, so change your resolution to that first if you want it to look its best.
  • Once running Heavens’ Kitchen, pressing ‘q’ or Escape will exit the program.

Simple CMB Simulator

If the installation and use of Heavens’ Kitchen proves too difficult to achieve, then a much simpler CMB simulator is available. This allows the user to change the relative amounts of normal matter, dark matter and dark energy in the Universe and see how it would affect the Cosmic Microwave Background.

Educational resources linked to Gravity and Cosmology

The resources below cover a wide range of topics in gravity and cosmology, and can be run together or separately. See the teacher outline for more details.

  • Teacher Outline [MS Word]; [PDF]
  • Teacher Powerpoint [MS PowerPoint]; [PDF]
  • Student Worksheets:
    • Section A: Scales of the Universe worksheet [MS Word]; [PDF]
    • Section B: Mass of the Sun worksheet [MS Word]; [PDF]
    • Section B: Mass of Jupiter worksheet (using Stellarium) [MS Word]; [PDF]
    • Section C: Finding Dark Matter worksheet [MS Word]; [PDF]
    • Section D: Expansion of the Universe [GCSE]; [A level]
    • Section E: Heavens’ Kitchen worksheet [MS Word]; [PDF]

Curriculum links

AQA GCSE Physics P1.5.4
Circular Motion
Sections D, E
Sections B, C
Edexcel GCSE Physics P1 Topic 3 Waves and the Universe Sections A, D, E
Edexcel GCSE Astronomy Unit 1
Unit 2
Unit 4
Earth, Moon and Sun
Planetary Systems
Galaxies and Cosmology
Sections A
Sections B
Sections C, D, E
OCR GCSE Physics A Module P1
Module P7
1.1 The Earth in the Universe
7.5 Mapping the Universe
Sections A, B, D, E
Sections C, D, E
OCR GCSE Physics B Module P2 P2f Exploring our Solar System
P2h the Big Bang
Sections A, B
Sections D, E
WJEC GCSE Physics Physics 1 The Solar System and its place in an evolving Universe Sections A, D. E
AQA A Level Physics A 3.4.1
Further Mechanics
Sections A, B, C
Sections A, B, C
Sections D, E
AQA A Level Physics B 3.1.2 Module 2
3.4.1 Module 1
E:Larger and Larger
A: Attracted to the Earth
Sections D, E
Sections A, B, C
Edexcel A Level Physics Unit 4
Unit 5
4.3 Further Mechanics
5.6 Astrophysics and Cosmology
Sections B, C
Sections D, E
OCR A Level Phyics G484
Module 2: Circular Motion
Module 5: Modelling the Universe
Sections B
Sections A, C, D, E
WJEC A Level Physics PH4 Module 4.1 Vibrations
Module 4.5 Application to orbits in the Solar System and the Wider Universe
Sections B, C
Sections B, C, D, E


The original Heavens’ Kitchen resource was developed for an Oxford University exhibit at the 2006 Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition. Lead developer: Jonathan Patterson, Oxford University Astrophysics and Theoretical Physics sub-departments.

Additional resources were developed by Chris North, Cardiff University