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Online course

In the Night Sky: Orion

Explore the night sky, discover how stars are formed and find out about exoplanets, all through the constellation of Orion.

Why join the course?

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 MOOCs presented on FutureLearn are produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education.

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What topics will you cover?

• Find the constellation of Orion in the night sky

• Learn all about the legend of Orion

• Discover how the constellations were used for navigation

• Discover the amazing process that causes stars to form

• Find out what happens to different stars over their lifetime

• Learn what happens when stars run out of fuel

• Find out what the night sky can reveal about the Big Bang theory

• Get involved with classifying galaxies into different shapes

• Take a tour of space through the PIRATE telescope

• Find out what is important about the Earth’s position

• Discuss whether you think there are other planets just like ours

• Find out about The Open University’s project to map the stars

When would you like to start?

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?

Andrew Norton

I'm Professor of Astrophysics Education at the OU and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Astronomical Review. My Erdos-Bacon-Sabbath number is 13 and I once wrote a children's story book about Exoplanets.

Monica Grady

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?

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

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  • Access to this course for 6 weeks
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes

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  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes
  • Certificate of Achievement to prove your success when you're eligible
  • Download and print your Certificate of Achievement anytime
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