Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe

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Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California, Berkeley, are just some of the schools that you have at your fingertips with edX. Through massive open online courses (MOOCs) from the world's best universities, you can develop your knowledge in literature, math, history, food and nutrition, and more. These online classes are taught by highly-regarded experts in the field. If you take a class on computer science through Harvard, you may be taught by David J. Malan, a senior lecturer on computer science at Harvard University for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. But there's not just one professor - you have access to the entire teaching staff, allowing you to receive feedback on assignments straight from the experts. Pursue a Verified Certificate to document your achievements and use your coursework for job and school applications, promotions, and more. EdX also works with top universities to conduct research, allowing them to learn more about learning. Using their findings, edX is able to provide students with the best and most effective courses, constantly enhancing the student experience.

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22621 reviews

Course Description

Despite spectacular recent progress, there is still a lot we don't know about our universe. We don't know why the Big Bang happened. We don't know what most of the universe is made of. We don't know whether there is life in space. We don't know how planets form, how black holes get so big, or where the first stars have gone. This course will take you through nine of the greatest unsolved problems of modern astrophysics. We can't promise you the answers, but we will explain what we do and don't know, and give you an up-to-date understanding of current research. This course is designed for people who would like to get a deeper understanding of these mysteries than that offered by popular science articles and shows. 

This is the first of four ANUx courses which together make up the Australian National University's first year astrophysics program. It is followed by courses on exoplanets, on the violent universe, and on cosmology....

Despite spectacular recent progress, there is still a lot we don't know about our universe. We don't know why the Big Bang happened. We don't know what most of the universe is made of. We don't know whether there is life in space. We don't know how planets form, how black holes get so big, or where the first stars have gone. This course will take you through nine of the greatest unsolved problems of modern astrophysics. We can't promise you the answers, but we will explain what we do and don't know, and give you an up-to-date understanding of current research. This course is designed for people who would like to get a deeper understanding of these mysteries than that offered by popular science articles and shows. 

This is the first of four ANUx courses which together make up the Australian National University's first year astrophysics program. It is followed by courses on exoplanets, on the violent universe, and on cosmology. These courses compromise the Astrophysics XSeries. Learn more about the XSeries program and register for all the courses in the series today!

Reviews 10/10 stars
73 Reviews for Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe

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Richard Reddy profile image
Richard Reddy profile image

Richard Reddy

10/10 starsCompleted
3 years, 1 month ago
I greatly enjoyed this course, in particular. Many physics courses are a bit presumptuous, as if we already know all about particular subjects, when we know very little. It's so refreshing to hear lively debate on direct observations that defy our powers of explanation. Everybody enjoys a good mystery and this material is enough to keep astrophysics busy for the rest of their lives! This is a superbly crafted course, filled with interesting details on the techniques and inherent limitations of astrophysics. Both instructors are highly qualified, to say the least, but have a knack for clear communication and plain speaking. This makes the course accessible to anyone who is comfortable with high school math. It's also an excellent course for people who know something about physics. I have an MS in Applied Physics, but knew little about astrophysics before completing this X-Series from ANU. Science and engineering are highl... I greatly enjoyed this course, in particular. Many physics courses are a bit presumptuous, as if we already know all about particular subjects, when we know very little. It's so refreshing to hear lively debate on direct observations that defy our powers of explanation. Everybody enjoys a good mystery and this material is enough to keep astrophysics busy for the rest of their lives! This is a superbly crafted course, filled with interesting details on the techniques and inherent limitations of astrophysics. Both instructors are highly qualified, to say the least, but have a knack for clear communication and plain speaking. This makes the course accessible to anyone who is comfortable with high school math. It's also an excellent course for people who know something about physics. I have an MS in Applied Physics, but knew little about astrophysics before completing this X-Series from ANU. Science and engineering are highly specialized; it's great to find courses that touch upon many contemporary topics of interest to observatories and researchers all over the world. Nowadays, books on astronomy/astrophysics/cosmology are out of date when we open them! All of the courses in series are packed with cutting-edge material on new frontiers currently being explored by astrophysicists. It's pretty clear Brian and Paul enjoy their work, and the presentation emphasizes practical knowledge, "matchbook" calculations that can be done on a note pad, and the essential concepts used to advance the work of astrophysics. Anyone taking these courses will learn a lot about astronomy and astrophysics, and also the thought process used by physicists to tackle problems of all kinds.
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
1 year, 9 months ago
I would say that the beginning was quite a challenge for me since I am studying Law for the last 11 years. So, math and physics, even in high school level had to be complemented with extra literature. But I did it and completed with 100% of progress. Well, it was only possible because of the 2 lowest grades were dropped. The 3rd week almost made me give up. But I was so dazzled by the content that I decided to keep going. I am not sure if I understand everything that was debated. I hope in the next stage I will have a better comprehension. Thanks to everybody involved for this amazing trip.
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Sherry Mayo profile image
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Sherry Mayo

10/10 starsCompleted
1 year, 10 months ago
Great course - I really enjoyed this and all the ANUx courses in this Astrophysics series. Would highly recommend to study for fun or for more serious pursuits.
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SUSAN SMITH profile image
SUSAN SMITH profile image

SUSAN SMITH

2/10 starsTaking Now
2 years ago
You've got to be kidding, guys...THE BIG BANG??!!! "If Mother Nature has expanded the universe, as the “Big Bang” states, there is no reason for her not to also change the rules of the universe, for reasons we can’t even imagine with our meager tools that barely penetrate the tip of the celestial iceberg, let alone the far greater mass beneath. The premises we set up in our mathematical laws of Nature, are meager, as far as the premises Mother Nature has set for the universe we model; for the complexity of natural phenomena is phenomenal in comparison to the complexity of the causes we assume in our axioms. Science is not about the mystical, but the provable, or verifiable: the realm of causation, as the human knows it."
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Frans Meersman profile image
Frans Meersman profile image

Frans Meersman

10/10 starsTaking Now
2 years, 5 months ago
This magnificent course is much more satisfying than reading popular books about the subject. Both professors are very good en enthusiastic teachers. The lay-out and arrangement of the course are excellent, also the videos. A must for people who are interested in astrophisics
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Student

10/10 starsTaking Now
2 years, 5 months ago
It is a great course, with great explanations. All subjects are treated as if you don't really know very much about it, which was very good (for me at least). Altough you need some knowledge about basic math and physics, it wont be a big problem if youre not an expert in this field. Great learning experience so far.
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Nicola De Quattro profile image
Nicola De Quattro profile image

Nicola De Quattro

10/10 starsCompleted
2 years, 5 months ago
This first module of the ANUx series provides a very good overview of some hot topics in modern astronomy and astrophysics and is taught with brilliantly and accurately. Worked examples are clear and useful, the workload commensurate to the initial expectations, never trivial nor too complex. I've really enjoyed it.
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Arnaud Bienvenu profile image
Arnaud Bienvenu profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
2 years, 11 months ago
This course will not give you rough ideas about astrophysics, it will seed deep understanding in your mind! It is a passionating course from passionate teachers. We get in-depth insight without any headache. All the materials have been smartly designed for us to learn with ease : video lessons, blackboard sequences, reference notes, worked examples... but we also learn from the practice and homework questions, and learn again from the "mystery" test. This is one course in a series of four; go for all four!
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Sanchita Abrol profile image
Sanchita Abrol profile image

Sanchita Abrol

10/10 starsTaking Now
3 years, 6 months ago
Excellent course. I love how interactive and informative it is. Even the toughest topics and numericals are dealt in a simple progressive manner. Thank you instructors for teaching the course with such enthusiasm! I look forward to completing the other courses in this X-Series course program.
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Christian C profile image
Christian C profile image

Christian C

10/10 starsTaking Now
3 years, 7 months ago
I love this course, great preparation for astronomy olympiads in high school. The instructors are clear and concise, and there are multiple example problems given. Unlike a lot of other astronomy courses I've found, this version includes mathematical formulas to work out things like flux, scale factors, energy at a given time, and more. Other free online courses just show the observation side of astronomy.
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Caitlin du Prel profile image
Caitlin du Prel profile image

Caitlin du Prel

10/10 starsCompleted
3 years, 8 months ago
A fun, interesting and accessible course, I really enjoyed it. The instructors explained it all really well, including the maths, which was a real help. I would recommend this course for anyone who is interested in astronomy and or astrophysics. I will certainly be doing the rest of the series.
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Daniel Rubio profile image
Daniel Rubio profile image

Daniel Rubio

10/10 starsCompleted
3 years, 8 months ago
Fun, great and awesome course. I will continue with the whole series. Thank you a lot for providing this openly for everybody.
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ebin mathew profile image
ebin mathew profile image

ebin mathew

9/10 starsTaking Now
3 years, 9 months ago
wow ......we live in a world of mysteries .......and i love to learn about them .. they taught me things that i have not imagined before
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Luis Herrero Ramón profile image
Luis Herrero Ramón profile image

Luis Herrero Ramón

10/10 starsCompleted
3 years, 9 months ago
Amazing course taught by an excelent team, it definetly awakens curiosity and introduces a very interesting field of study to newcomers from all levels.
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student

8/10 starsDropped
3 years, 10 months ago
I only got through the first part of this course and its a lot harder than expected. Brain and Paul are great teachers and listening to them speak about the universe was really enjoyable. However the math required to complete this is beyond me and I would need to be in a classroom to ask questions and receive help face to face. Its very disappointing I had to drop this course because the universe is something which keeps me up at night and wanting to learn more is a passion for me. This course should have some more details or examples of the work required because it would be better to know that it would be quite difficult and beyond my level beforehand rather than me having to stop it which is quite demotivating and disheartening.
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Claudio Felicioli profile image
Claudio Felicioli profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 58 reviews
  • 58 completed
4 years ago
It's fun and awesome. Both the professors are very good on themselves, but their combined effort is something of unutterable greatness. The topics are inspiringly presented, in depth, using the support of lots of ad hoc simulations. The mystery part by Paul is a masterpiece of interactive sci-fi where YOU are the scientist. The complete ANU Astrophysics series is a must for any student with any kind of scientific interest. Do this course, really.
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
4 years, 1 month ago
This is the best MOOC I've taken so far. The first video seemed "cheap" at first as this might not be the MOOC with the best ressources, but the actual content is really good. The instructors are real passionates that seems to enjoy teaching this courses (it's the first part of a 4-parts series).
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Zbyněk Zajíc profile image
Zbyněk Zajíc profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 18 reviews
  • 18 completed
4 years, 2 months ago
Perfect series of courses about our Universe, very interesting and entertaining, full of new information. Fully recommend. Perfectly balanced pair of two presenters.
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
4 years, 2 months ago
I really enjoyed this course and learned a lot. I particularly like the fact that the math isn't crazy difficult or too in-depth, but it was still enough to give me an idea of how things are done. Paul and Brian did a wonderful job of making the material interesting. The lectures are broken down into bite-sized chunks, and it really helps making the course easier to digest, especially when they show you the math. I did not fall asleep during any of the lecture videos! I am looking forward to completing the rest of the ANUx astrophysics series.
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Sabnam Shrestha profile image
Sabnam Shrestha profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
4 years, 2 months ago
Just completed the whole X series. This course was interesting and one of the best MOOC s I have taken. This X series must be taken by those interested in astronomy. The course content and instructors were amazing. I enjoyed the whole course and the best part of this course for me was section 7 of Special Relativity. I always wanted to learn about more about Einstein's Special relativity in more mathematical and theoretical prospectives and this course helped me. This was my first course in astronomy and I enjoyed it. The mystery section was the most appealing. I am so gratified to Australian National University and Professors Paul and Brian for putting these courses. This is an amazing course. Every course content, practice questions and assignments were interesting.
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Jesus Moreno Roldan profile image
Jesus Moreno Roldan profile image

Jesus Moreno Roldan

10/10 starsCompleted
4 years, 2 months ago
Simply the best pedagogical approach I have never seen (I work as a teacher) and one of the best courses I took (not MOOC any kind of courses).
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Kristina Šekrst profile image
Kristina Šekrst profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 102 reviews
  • 102 completed
4 years, 5 months ago
This is the best series of astronomical courses on the Internet. The teaching style, the mysteries (Yes, the mysteries in which you're investigating a made-up universe and play around with it! Or your job is to try to save the world!), the homework sets - everything was perfect. The easiest thing is to take these courses in order, so that Cosmology doesn't surprise you. After these courses, I gained so much interest, so I switched a bit from my theoretical mathematics background to astrophysics, and I'm loving it in here. So, it can really change your life. This is the best thing.
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Weston Haskell profile image
Weston Haskell profile image
2/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
5 years ago
How can this course be improved? At least discuss the Quasi Steady State theory of Fred Hoyle and compare it with the Big Bang concept. And you could also admit that Fred Hoyle's has advanced the concept that iron whiskers formed from elements injected into space from super novae will supple those iron whiskers that absorb present day star light and produce the three degree radiation back ground, thereby making that irrelevant to the origin of the Universe. I am a research scientist and inventor who is now apply chemistry to remove carbon dioxide via the oceanic sink. What is more significant than that? WWH
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Christopher Overton profile image
Christopher Overton profile image
9/10 starsCompleted
  • 4 reviews
  • 3 completed
5 years, 3 months ago
The lesson plans were probably the most fun for me, although I really enjoyed the homework too.  A little bit of classical mechanics work here and there, and basically high school algebra and physics should be fine, but be prepared for a little bit of math work.  Generally math is straightforward, although there are some problems that are fun in terms of solution work.   Fun if you are interested in wanting to know a little more beyond strictly popular science cosmology, but not so weighty that you need advanced degrees to understand what is going on.
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c j profile image
c j profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 5 reviews
  • 4 completed
3 years, 3 months ago
What a wonderful class. The instructors were fun, engaging, and clear (most of the time). And if you were confused, you could post your questions, and have them answered by other students, course staff, or even the instructors, who were always gracious and open-minded, even when students were criticizing them. They even had a special overlay, a "mystery" which was great fun and gave the students who already knew much of the material something to play with, and the rest of us something to wonder at. In the end, though, you only needed the material presented in the videos and exercises to pass the class. Some of the exercises were devilish, because the idea was to get you to think like an astrophysicist, but they were always do-able in the end. I cannot recommend this class enough!
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 4 months ago
I am a matured student, a financial professional who had successfully completed the course ANU-ASTRO1x. My engagement in amateur Astronomy and the thirst for knowledge, especially astrophysics made me take up this fine course. Early studies in engineering I had given up halfway helped me to easy understanding of the subject matter and try to go a bit deeper when required. The course was conducted in an excellent manner. The simulated universe, as intended, gave us an exposure to an environment of scientific research. A successful approach to teaching of subjects that hangs at the very edge of knowledge, the student was drawn into the core of the subject matter as a silent participant to a conversation between eminent scientists, To Dr. Paul Francis and Dr. Brian Schmidt, and to their support staff, whose interest, care and dedication had made our studies a very pleasant, memorable experience for years to come, we are greatly and grat... I am a matured student, a financial professional who had successfully completed the course ANU-ASTRO1x. My engagement in amateur Astronomy and the thirst for knowledge, especially astrophysics made me take up this fine course. Early studies in engineering I had given up halfway helped me to easy understanding of the subject matter and try to go a bit deeper when required. The course was conducted in an excellent manner. The simulated universe, as intended, gave us an exposure to an environment of scientific research. A successful approach to teaching of subjects that hangs at the very edge of knowledge, the student was drawn into the core of the subject matter as a silent participant to a conversation between eminent scientists, To Dr. Paul Francis and Dr. Brian Schmidt, and to their support staff, whose interest, care and dedication had made our studies a very pleasant, memorable experience for years to come, we are greatly and gratefully indebted. The decision not to mention the passing grade in the certificate, however, is regrettable. In my opinion, it constitute a negative incentive for all to do their best and especially seriously counterproductive in diluting the interests of the budding scientists among the young students to strive hard. They are the real aspiration and I hope the decision could be reconsidered.
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 4 months ago
One of the best courses I have ever taken. The instructors were some of the best also, including a Nobel prize-winner. Even if you fail, you succeed! And its fun.
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 4 months ago
Superb - fascinating, estremely well taught, addictive. Very challenging. I didn't have the prerequisite maths and physics so spent many more hours than suggested but it was worth every minute of it. Thank you!
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 4 months ago
Absolutely fantastic. Great explanations, worked maths examples, simple formulas -- all adding to the deeper understanding of the Universe. Definitely in the top 3 courses I've ever taken and there are more than 50 of them.
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 4 months ago
Hands-down the best online course I've ever taken, and in the top 5% even including in-person courses at university. Well-designed, fascinating, and staff were incredibly responsive and helpful. I'd recommend it to anyone and everyone.
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