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Introduction to active galaxies

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The field of active galaxies is recognised as one of increasing importance. But how do we know there are different kinds of galaxy? What are active galaxies? How are they powered? This free course, Introduction to active galaxies, examines the different types of active galaxies and looks at the crucial role of the active galactic nucleus and the energy source at its heart.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • explain how and why the optical spectrum of an active or starburst galaxy differs from that of a normal galaxy
  • explain how and why the broadband spectrum of an active or starburst galaxy differs from that of a normal galaxy
  • describe briefly the observed features of starburst galaxies and the four main classes of active galaxies (quasars, radio galaxies, Seyfert galaxies and blazars)
  • understand the evidence that indicates the presence of a compact active galactic nucleus (AGN) in active galaxies
  • explain why an AGN should emit broad lines, narrow forbidden lines and continuous radiation.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 20 hours
  • Updated Wednesday 16th March 2016
  • Intermediate level
  • Posted under Physics and Astronomy
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Introduction to active galaxies


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Active galaxies provide a prime example of high-energy processes operating in the Universe. This course introduces the evidence for activity from the spectra of some galaxies, and the concept of a compact active galactic nucleus as a unifying model for the observed features of several types of active galaxy. It also develops the key skill of applying arithmetic and simple algebra to solving scientific problems.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course S282 Astronomy [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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