Free course

Astronomy with an online telescope

Free statement of participation on completion
Astronomy with an online telescope

This free course, Astronomy with an online telescope, shows you how to navigate the night sky, and introduces the wide variety of objects it contains. You will develop a hands-on understanding of telescopic observations using the Open University’s own robotic telescope facility COAST sited on the island of Tenerife. Supported by your own measurements we illustrate how stars evolve, and study variable stars. 

For those new to astronomy and/or the use of robotic telescopes this course provides a practical introduction and will prepare you for further OU study where remotely operable telescopes feature. For those undertaking the GCSE Astronomy course or studying informally the series of structured activities this course contains will allow you to produce a beautiful image of a celestial object of your choice – and analyse the changing magnitude of a variable star over time (one of the approved aided GCSE Astronomy projects).

This OpenLearn science course is produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education3426670 3353436771 3393436771, the educational arm of The Exilarch's Foundation.


This course was also developed with the help of the ASTERICS 3363403446872 Horizon2020 project. ASTERICS is a project supported by the European Commission Framework Programme Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation action under grant agreement n. 653477.

Enrolling on the course will give you the opportunity to earn an Open University digital badge. Badges are not accredited by The Open University but they’re a great way to demonstrate your interest in the subject and commitment to your career, and to provide evidence of continuing professional development.

Once you are signed in, you can manage your digital badges online from My OpenLearn. In addition, you can download and print your OpenLearn statement of participation – which also displays your Open University badge.

The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations for the course before you begin, in our optional start-of-course survey 3413456973. Once you complete the course we would also value your feedback and suggestions for future improvement, in our optional end-of-course survey 7074. Participation will be completely confidential and we will not pass on your details to others.

This course is endorsed by the CPD Standards Office   717. It can be used to provide evidence of continuing professional development but is not accredited learning. We are unable to provide formal learner verification services for participation in our open online courses, which are provided freely by The Open University as self-directed CPD.  

Anyone wishing to provide evidence of their enrolment on this course is able to do so by sharing their Activity Record on their OpenLearn Profile, which is available before completion of the course and earning of the Statement of Participation.

Course learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • understand how the apparent motion of the night sky is caused by the rotation of the Earth and the movement of the Earth in its orbit around the Sun
  • understand how the human eye adapts to dark conditions and how to use dark adapted vision to its best effect when observing the night sky
  • have an understanding of the different types of telescopes and the advantages of an observatory location at a remote site such as Tenerife
  • understand how the positions of celestial objects are specified and be able to use this knowledge to predict when a given object will be visible in order to plan observations and make and collect images from the COAST telescope in Tenerife
  • understand the processes by which stars shine and how they evolve and the causes of variability in stars.

First Published: 22/10/2021

Updated: 22/10/2021

You can start this course right now without signing-up. Click on any of the course content sections below to start at any point in this course.
If you want to be able to track your progress, earn a free Statement of Participation, and access all course quizzes and activities, sign-up.

Course content

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371