Where Can I Find Free Online Astronomy Courses?

Free online astronomy courses are offered by institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Open University. Classes provide reading material that you can download for later study. Continue reading to find out what these noncredit courses might teach you. Schools offering Science, Technology, and International Security degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Studying astronomy can strengthen your knowledge of math, science and the Earth's place in the universe. A free online astronomy course might rely more on printed materials like readings, assignments and exams to help you learn about the solar system, stars, planets and galaxies. Since courses were originally taught in the classroom, hands-on experience in using instruments to observe the solar system was a requirement. You can still partake in hands-on practice on your own, but you won't be able to get feedback from instructors.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Free classes in astronomy from MIT were adapted from on-campus classes, and are now made available through the school's OpenCourseWare (OCW) site. These free classes do not award college credit.

Introduction to Astronomy

This is an undergraduate course that was taught in the Spring 2006 semester. A number of assignments and exams are included in this course to help test your knowledge.

What Will I Learn?

Completing the course will give you a basic overview of the galaxy, stars and solar system. You'll study astronomical theories and concepts, including the thermal history of the universe. The course assumes that you have knowledge of basic calculus and physics.

What Assignments Will I Complete?

There are 13 problem sets and seven quizzes with solutions, as well as three quizzes without solutions. One of the course's two final exams includes solutions.

What Materials Are Provided?

You can access partial lecture notes that cover topics like star contributions, spectroscopic notation and visual binaries. Resources available to you include astronomical images, a multimedia presentation of the solar system and planetary data.

Hands-On Astronomy: Observing Stars and Planets

Initially offered to undergraduates in Spring 2002, this course provides instruction primarily through PDF lecture notes.

What Will I Learn?

You'll learn techniques for using small telescopes to research and observe planets, stars, the Moon and other celestial bodies. Other topics you'll study include spectroscopy and electronic imaging of objects in space.

What Materials Will I Need?

This course assumes you'll have access to an 8-inch reflecting telescope and a notebook to record astronomical observations; you'll also need a course textbook. The course also recommends that you wear proper clothing like hiking boots and heavy trousers.

What Materials Are Included?

Lecture notes include CCD camera instructions and guidelines for using the observational notebook. There are also tips on observing space and an explanation of how telescopes work.

Open University

Based in England, The Open University is a distance learning institution that provides OCW courses through its OpenLearn system. Telescopes and Spectrographs is an Open University OCW course that is available to you for free.

What Will I Learn?

The course will introduce you to spectrographs and telescopes as well as other technologies used to observe and record objects in space. You'll learn how to calculate the light-gathering power, angular magnification, field-of-view and image scale of reflecting and refracting telescopes.

A spectrograph is a scientific instrument used to record the spectrum of light emanating from a star, planet or galaxy. You'll compare and contrast multiple spectrograph types, including single-slit, echelle, fibre-fed and multi-slit spectrographs.

What Materials Are Provided?

You can study lecture notes that include a total of 22 questions with answers. There are also diagrams, graphs and pictures of spectrographs and telescopes.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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