New Online Classes to Help You Learn More about the Universe

by Matthew Francis on January 16, 2014

Dark matter in the Bullet Cluster.  Otherwise invisible to telescopic views, the dark matter was mapped by observations of gravitational lensing of background galaxies. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/ M.Markevitch et al.; Lensing Map: NASA/STScI; ESO WFI; Magellan/U.Arizona/ D.Clowe et al. Optical: NASA/STScI; Magellan/U.Arizona/D.Clowe et al.;

Dark matter in the Bullet Cluster. Otherwise invisible to telescopic views, the dark matter was mapped by observations of gravitational lensing of background galaxies. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/ M.Markevitch et al.; Lensing Map: NASA/STScI; ESO WFI; Magellan/U.Arizona/ D.Clowe et al. Optical: NASA/STScI; Magellan/U.Arizona/D.Clowe et al.;

Roughly eighty percent of all the mass in the Universe is made of dark matter – a mysterious invisible substance responsible for the structure of galaxies and the patterns of the cosmos on the very largest scales. But how do we know that?

Astronomical images are beautiful, but that’s not their primary purpose from a scientist’s point of view. How can we take those images and infer things about what they are?

We only know of one planet harboring life: Earth. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know anything about the possibility of life elsewhere in the cosmos. How can we infer things about possible alien organisms when we can’t see them (yet)?

If you’re curious about those and other classes, CosmoAcademy — a project from the CosmoQuest educational and citizen-science group — could be for you. We’re offering three new online classes: Introduction to Dark Matter, Introduction to Astronomy via Color Imaging, and Life Beyond Earth: Introduction to Astrobiology.

These classes are short, four-hour courses designed for curious but busy people. All CosmoAcademy classes are offered online through Google+ Hangouts, a type of video chat. Part of the reason we do that is to limit the size of courses to eight students. That allows us to provide individual instruction in a way no other kind of online class is able to do – you aren’t a faceless student, but part of every discussion. In fact, if there’s a topic you want to discuss, there’s a good chance your instructor will take the time to talk about it.

Interested? See our course listings, and please let me know if you have any questions. Here are a few more details:

CQX015: Introduction to Dark Matter

Roughly eighty percent of all the mass in the Universe is made of dark matter – a mysterious invisible substance responsible for the structure of galaxies. But how do we know that? In this course, we’ll examine the evidence in favor of dark matter’s existence, from the rotation of galaxies to the radiation left over from the infancy of the cosmos. After that, we’ll examine what we can infer about the identity of dark matter and sketch out some of the experiments designed to detect it. This class assumes no background except a strong interest in astronomy and cosmology.

Instructor: Matthew Francis
Course structure: Two weeks, four 60-minute meetings
Meeting times: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9–10 PM US Eastern time (6-7 PM US Pacific time)
Course dates: January 28—February 6, 2014

Enroll today!

CQX021: Introduction to Astronomy Via Color Imaging

When astronomers look at a star, nebula or galaxy for the first time, they see some unreachably distant object acting in some unknown way. What does it have to be made of and how does it have to be acting to look like that? In this class we will be looking at how we use the visual appearance of astronomical objects to figure out what they are. We will examine this problem by making our own color images from the sources provided by observatories from real research projects. From the subtle hues of stars in a distant galaxy to the eerie neon colors of nebulae to the chaotic Sun, by looking at objects in the right light, we can find out what makes them tick.

Instructor: Peter Dove
Course structure: Two weeks, four 60-minute meetings
Meeting times: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8–9 PM US Eastern time (5-6 PM US Pacific time)
Course dates: Tuesday, February 25—Thursday, March 6

Enroll today!

CQX013 – Astrobiology: Life in the Universe

What will it take to find extraterrestrial life? Frank Drake penned his famous “equation” to determine the instances of life in the Galaxy over 50 years ago. Meant more as a discussion guideline than a rigorous mathematical formula, it will guide our discussion on the science of astronomy, biology, and astrobiology as we consider the possibility of life in the Universe.

Instructor: Nicole Gugliucci
Course structure: Two weeks, four 60-minute meetings
Meeting times: Mondays and Thursdays, 9–10 PM US Eastern time (6-7 PM US Pacific time)
Course dates: Monday, March 17 — Thursday, March 27

Enroll today!

About 

I’m a physicist, science writer, public speaker, educator, and frequent wearer of jaunty hats . My writing and speaking specialties are cosmology, astronomy, and many other subjects in physics, all aimed at non-specialist audiences. As director of CosmoAcademy, I teach and organize classes on astronomy and related topics. I blog about science, science communication, education, and culture at Galileo’s Pendulum. I have even appeared in comics form as Pluto’s moon Nix.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: