In this class, we will be studying, quite literally, everything in the universe. We will start with "classical" astronomy, describing the night sky and organizing what we see as was done in ancient times. We will then embark on a journey,
starting here on Earth and progressing outward, to study the Solar system, the Milky Way galaxy, and the wonderful and strange objects we observe in deep space, such as black holes, quasars, and supernovae. We will end with some discussion of what
scientists know today about the universe as a whole. Along the way we will introduce some of the methods, theoretical and experimental, that have been used to understand all of this, from Newton's laws, through our understanding of light and matter,
to Einstein's theory of relativity, and from Galileo's telescope to WMAP.
Table of contents
Week 1: Positional Astronomy (naked-eye Astronomy) We will spend our first week familiarizing ourselves with descriptions of the positions and motions of celestial objects.
Weeks 2-3: Newtons Universe Newtonian physics revolutionized the way we understand our Universe. We will discuss Newtons laws of mechanics, the conservation laws that follow from them, his theory of gravity and some applications to Astronomy, as well as some properties of radiation. The last clip will be a quick look at the features of quantum mechanics relevant to our course. This will be a particularly busy and challenging unit, but hard work here will pay off later.
Week 4: Planets We will not have time in this course to do justice to the broad and exciting field of planetary science. We will spend the week on a general review of the properties and structure of our Solar System and our understanding of its origins and history. We will end with some discussion of the exciting discoveries over the past decade of many hundreds of extrasolar planets.
Week 5: Stars What we know about stars and a bit about how we found out. We will begin with a quick review of the best-studied star of all, our Sun. We will then talk about classifications; H-R diagrams and main sequence stars; distance, mass, and size measurements; binaries; clusters; and stellar evolution through the main sequence
Week 6: Post-Main-Sequence Stars Final stages of stellar evolution and stellar remnants. Giants, white dwarfs, novae, variable stars, supernovae, neutron stars and pulsars.
Week 7: Relativity and Black Holes We will spend most of this week acquiring an understanding of the special theory of relativity. We will then discuss the general theory in a qualitative way, and discuss its application to black holes, gravitational lensing, and other phenomena of interest.
Week 8: Galaxies Galactic structure and classification. Active galactic nuclei, quasars and blazars. Galactic rotation curves and dark matter. Galaxy clusters and large-scale structure.
Weeks 9-10: Cosmology What we can say about the universe as a whole. Hubble Expansion. Big bang cosmology. The cosmic microwave background. Recent determination of cosmological parameters. Early universe physics.
An interest in learning something about the universe we live in and a willingness to invest some thought and some work in this.
The ability to calculate with large and small numbers, e.g. to compute the product of and .
A familiarity with the rudiments of high-school algebra, the ability to solve an equation like to get and comfortably use this to obtain numerical values for in appropriate units given values of , , and , and to draw and use graphs to describe the properties of functions.
A basic background in science at a high school level. What elements, atoms, nuclei, magnetic fields, gravity, etc. are will be assumed familiar. The details of their physics or its mathematical description will not.
This has to be one of the best MOOCs I have taken so far. Professor Ronen is an amazing instructor and the way he and his team interact with students in the forums is mind-boggling. They changed parts of the course on feedback while we were still taking it and responded not only to creative discussions on the discussion board, but also to problems one might have with the homework assignments.
Prior to taking the course, I took physics and math courses as part of my BS. I have an interest in the topic and taking up stargazing again. I am not trying to earn credits or a degree with this course. I took this course for fun. This was my first Coursera experience. Sadly, the experience was largely negative, and I dropped the course. Compared to other college level courses, I found this course lacking is several areas. First, the instructor has very poor public speaking skills. It is difficult to learn a subject when the speaker punctuates their discussion with "ummm" or "awww" frequently. Second, in many of the courses I have taken, the lectures and the coursework had a direct relation. This course lectures do not have any relation to the course work. An example is the discussion on orbits where the lecturer spends most of a20 minute video discussion on outdated "earth-centric" universe, with less than 3 minutes to discuss the actual formula the home work will require. Third, the home work was originally forecast has requiring 3-6 hours of work per week, but the actual time was significantly greater, between 10-20 hours per week. Finally, I do not feel I really was getting anything out of this experience, other than to just read the lecture transcripts for the formulas to do the homework. I expected the course to discuss astronomy, but it was really "applied mathematics to astronomic problems" I disliked the method of teaching, with poor presentation. I disliked the home work that had no relation to the lecture. I disliked the overly burdensome time requirement for "fun" lecture. I cannot recommend this course due to the lack of teaching, and misguided attempt to discuss astronomy.
In spite of its title, this class seems like more than just an introduction. The material starts with the local solar system, and makes its way out in space to the furthest reaches of the known universe, and in time back to the first fraction of a second after the big bang.
The video lectures are first rate, and the instructor is enthusiastic about the material. But the homework is difficult and time-consuming. Unless you have a solid background in algebra and classical mechanics, you're not going to be able to do it. I gave up on doing the homework after four weeks because of the time commitment.
But there's no reason to feel guilty about just "auditing" a class. I thoroughly enjoyed just watching the lectures, and when we got to neutron stars, black holes, galaxies, and the expansion of the universe, every single lecture was mind-blowing!