From the basics of astronomy and stargazing, to the science behind the birth of a star, this four-week course will change the way you see the night sky. You’ll examine one of the most famous constellations, Orion, who the Ancient Greeks believed was a huntsman placed among the stars by Zeus himself.
Starting with its famous nebula where new stars and planets are being formed, you’ll take a look at the seven brightest stars that make up this constellation, including the supergiants Rigel and Betelgeuse, using high-quality images from telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope.
You’ll find out about exoplanets, planets that orbit other stars just as we orbit the Sun and may hold the secrets to life outside of the solar system. Finally you’ll think about the Milky Way, the galaxy of which our solar system is but one small part, and consider the history of the universe from the Big Bang to the present.
You do not need a professional telescope for this course, but you may find at least a pair of binoculars extremely useful.
No prior experience of the subject is required.
After studying this course, you should be able to:
understand facts, concepts, principles, theories, classifications and language used in astronomy
understand the range of sizes, distances and motions of objects in the night sky
understand the structure, evolution and the main processes operating in stars
understand the properties of planets in our Solar System and exoplanetary systems
- understand the history of the universe.
The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations of the course. We welcome your feedback and suggestions to improve the experience for learners.
This OpenLearn science course is produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education, the educational arm of The Exilarch's Foundation.
Creative Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence.
However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions and our FAQs.
Full copyright details can be found in the Acknowledgements section of each week.