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List of Free Online Astronomy Courses, Classes and Learning Materials

See our list of the top free online astronomy courses. Learn about what courses are available and what topics they cover to find the course that's right for you.

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Online Astronomy Courses for Credit

Free online astronomy courses and learning materials are available through OpenCourseWare programs at many universities. These courses are offered free of charge and do not award grades or credit. There are also online astronomy courses that can prepare students to earn college credit in exchange for a fee. Study.com offers such a resource to online learners who would like to offset the costs of their college education by pursuing an affordable alternative to traditional courses.

Students can take Astronomy 101: Intro to Astronomy, which contains chapters such as:

  • Matter in Astronomy - Topics covered include the atom, states of matter, the Bohr model, and more.
  • Light in Astronomy- Examines wave parameters, the nature of light, electromagnetic waves, and related topics.
  • The Solar System - Explore the solar nebula theory, planetary formation, protoplanets, and more.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Astronomy
  • Astrophysics
  • Atmospheric Physics
  • Chemical Technologies
  • Earth Science
  • Geochemistry
  • Geophysics and Seismology
  • Meteorology
  • Natural Sciences
  • Oceanography
  • Paleontology
  • Planetary Astronomy
  • Water Resource Sciences

Free Online Non-Credited Astronomy Courses

Stanford University

  • Astrobiology approaches human biological history from an astronomical standpoint to try to answer questions about the origins of humanity and whether or not humans are alone in the universe. It's designed for students with a background in science. Students may download lectures from iTunes.

University of California - Berkeley

  • Astronomy: Lecture Series includes several free astronomy lectures that cover a wide range of topics. Students can experience lectures focused on astrophysics, general astronomy, X-rays and ultraviolet radiation. These lectures are available as both audio and video files that one can watch through YouTube or download from iTunes.

TED.com

  • TED Astronomy Talks include lectures about black holes, life in the universe, discovering new planets and the way the universe is designed. These talks and lectures can be downloaded or streamed directly from the TED homepage.

The Open University

  • Comparing Stars focuses on stars and stellar properties. Students in this course study temperature and luminosity and are introduced to essential concepts and theories about the universe. For example, the course introduces and explains the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, which is used to understand the qualities of stars.

National Radio Astronomy Observatory

  • Essential Radio Astronomy is designed for advanced undergraduate students and graduate students with some prior knowledge of astronomy, engineering or physics. It introduces the concept of radio astronomy and then covers topics like using antennas, radio telescopes and radiometers. The course also covers pulsars and spectral lines. All of the lessons are accessible through the website, though it's encouraged that students obtain a copy of the course's recommended textbook for additional training materials.

University of Cape Town

  • From Here to the Edge of the Observable Universe is presented as a lecture series in the form of podcasts. It presents an overview of current astronomical theories and knowledge. Lectures cover the solar system as well as the Sun's and the Earth's climates. The series ends with a lecture about whether or not humans are alone in the universe.

Yale University

  • Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics covers three main topic areas: dark energy, black holes and extra-solar planets. The class pays specific attention to contemporary projects that can help students understand the theoretical implications of these topics. Students can stream audio and video content for this course on iTunes and YouTube and download other course materials directly from the course website.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Hands-On Astronomy: Observing Stars and Planets is an introductory course that teaches how to use small telescopes. This class is designed for both researchers and hobbyists alike. Students receive instruction and information about electronic imaging, spectroscopy and data processing, as well as tips for better observations. Free lecture notes are available from the course website.
  • Introduction to Astronomy introduces students to the scientific study of the solar system, stars and the universe. The course includes downloadable lecture notes, exams and assignments as well as a list of external resources. The curriculum utilizes a variety of astronomical models and observations to convey the material; topics covered include stellar structure, X-ray reflection and nuclear energies.

University of California - Irvine

  • Putting Together the Pieces of the Universe is offered in video format and can be streamed directly from the lecture homepage, deals with different galaxies in the universe. Specifically, the lecture discusses the importance and functionality of dark matter in the creation of galaxies.
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