Explore the night sky, discover how stars are formed and find out about exoplanets, all through the constellation of Orion.
Weekly study3 hours
In the Night Sky: Orion
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From the basics of astronomy to the science behind the birth of a star, this course will change the way you see the night sky.
Starting with Orion’s famous nebula, where new stars and planets are formed, you’ll take a look at the seven brightest stars that make up this constellation using high-quality images from telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope.
You’ll find out about exoplanets, which may hold the secrets to life outside of the solar system, the galaxy Milky Way, of which our solar system is but one small part and the history of the universe from the Big Bang to the present.
All Open University Science short courses presented on FutureLearn are produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education.
Beginning the journey
Begin your journey by finding the constellation of Orion in the night sky and learning about the legend of Orion.
What are constellations?
Discover more about patterns in the night sky, how they were used for navigation and contribute by constructing your own constellation.
Mapping the stars
The Open University are involved in a project to map the stars, find out more about their involvement.
Travelling from star birth to star death
Birth of a star
Discover the amazing process, happening over thousands of years, that causes stars to form. Find out what makes up a star and study the Orion nebula.
Life of a star
Stars need a power source, since they are constantly radiating away energy into space as light and heat – if they didn’t have one, they would gradually fade away and cool.
Death of a star
What happens when a star runs out of fuel? Stars take different journeys based on their mass. Some form material for planets, some explode as beautiful supernovae, some gradually fade as white dwarfs.
From the beginning
The Big Bang
The galaxies in the Universe appear to be moving away from each other. The origin of the Universe is described by the Big Bang theory. Find out what the night sky can reveal about how it all began.
Galaxies (including the Milky Way)
Galaxies are categorised according to their shape. Our Galaxy, the Milky Way, is thought to be a barred spiral galaxy. Get involved with classifying galaxies yourself.
Observing the stars
Light travels at different wavelengths. Find out how this affects what we see in the night sky and how instruments help us to see more of the beauty of space.
Our place in the universe
The habitable zone
Is where we are (half way along a spiral arm in an undistinguished galaxy) particularly special? Has the origin of life on Earth been enabled because of the type of star our planet orbits, and where that star sits in the galaxy?
Use the Orion nebula to discover how stars and planets formed.
Planets that orbit other stars could be similar to any of the planets in our Solar System, including Earth.
When would you like to start?
Date to be announced
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Learning on this course
On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.
What will you achieve?
By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...
- Apply facts, concepts, principles, theories, classification systems and language used in astronomy
- Develop the knowledge and understanding of the range of sizes, distances and motions of objects in the night sky
- Develop the knowledge and understanding of the structure, evolution and the main processes operating in stars
- Develop the knowledge and understanding of the properties of planets in our Solar System and exoplanetary systems
- Demonstrate the knowledge and understanding of the history of the Universe
Who is the course for?
You do not need a professional telescope for this course, but you may find at least a pair of binoculars extremely useful.
No prior experience of the subject is required.
Who will you learn with?
I have been teaching, and learning, astronomy for over 40 years, half of them at the OU.
I research asteroids, comets and interplanetary dust with space missions telescopes and laboratory experiments.
I am a researcher in planetary & space sciences at the OU, interested in comets, asteroids and meteorites, and what they can tell us about the Solar System. Asteroid 4731 is named Monicagrady.
Who developed the course?
LocationMilton Keynes, UK
World rankingTop 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020
Learning on FutureLearn
Your learning, your rules
- Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
- Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
- Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores
Join a global classroom
- Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
- Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
- Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others
Map your progress
- As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
- Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
- Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate
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