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By Don Selle – Guidestar Editor

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the daily lifestyles of most americans. By now you’ve probably settled into a new routine and maybe have taken the opportunity of more hometime to take on a project or to learn something new.

If you are like me, and you’ve been stuck in the house long enough to finish round 1! You (like me) may be looking for something more to do. Why not take an online astronomy course? There are quite a few of them, most are worthwhile, some are free, and some of the free ones are excellent!

You can find astronomy courses on the larger distance learning websites. These sites like The Great Courses, edX, Coursera and OpenLearn generally have several introductory to intermediate level astronomy courses from various universities, which include both the video lectures and other class content such as quizes, worksheets and problem sets. With the exception of The Great Courses these sites offer most of their astronomy courses free of charge if you want only to monitor the course. A “verified” certificate of completion however will cost you typically $50. All of the Great Courses however are pay for courses, though many times, individual courses are put “on sale” for a deep discount. I have taken courses from both Coursera and The Great Courses that have been quite good. However that has not kept me from scouring the internet for truly free courses that are just “out there”.

Here is one from Open Yale Courses “Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics” While a little dated (it was taught in Spring 2007), it is an excellent introduction to how astroomers discover and characterize exoplanets and  black holes. It also covers Big Bang Cosmology. The course has been so well received, it has been updated three times to add new astronomical discoveries pertainent to the course material.

 The full course material is available including 24 lectures, quizes, problem sets and exams (both including solutions). The math is basic algebra, and with a little work on your part, really helps cement your understanding of course material.

Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics

 astrobite.pngLast month I introduced you to a unique website called astrobites. It is a site by astronomy grad students and post-docs who, in order to assist their peers keep up with the professional literature, summarize professional papers and articles. Each summary has a brief bio of the “astro-bite” author as well as a link to the actual paper or journal article which is the subject of the astrobite. This a great site for amateur astronomers who would like to delve deeper into various astronomy topics.


This month’s astrobite is a personal experience article and describes what it is like to be an observational astronomer. Even though I’m an amateur, much of this article sounds very familiar to me, and I know others in HAS who would share this same feeling.



A day (and night) in the life of an observational astronomer

by Rosanna Tilbrook | Apr 24, 2020 | Personal Experiences


Enjoy these resources and stay well to keep on looking up!


Don Selle – HAS Guidestar Editor