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The night sky

Orion Week 1 activity 1 step 1
The image is of the night sky with hundreds of stars visible, the bottom half of the Orion constellation is just in view. In the foreground of the image you can see a rocky terrain.
© The Open University

It’s January. The holiday is over, and you have already broken your New Year’s resolutions. What is there to look forward to?

Travel back in time and space to just before the Sun was born then move forward into the future to watch a star die. Exciting enough? Stick with us, and explore places you could never imagine, as you travel to Orion, explore the night sky and study the birth, life and death of stars.

The course

You can get more of an idea about what’s covered in the course from this short summary.

In Week 1, you’ll discover the constellation of Orion, find it in the sky and find out how the constellations can be used for navigation.

In Week 2, learn about the lifecycle of different types of star, their birth and what happens when they die. Find out about nuclear fusion that happens inside a star and how their mass, luminosity and temperature are related to their lifecycle.

In Week 3, investigate what the night sky can reveal about how it all began, learn about different types of telescopes and go behind the scenes with Monica Grady.

In Week 4, consider how planets and planetary systems formed and find out about our place in the Universe. You’ll also find out about exoplanets and consider whether other stars have planets like ours.

The course is designed to run on desktops, tablets and mobile devices; however, some of the material is quite detailed and using a larger screen will enhance your experience. Materials are best viewed running the most up-to-date software available for your device and using the most recent version of the web browser.


Keep track of your progress by clicking ‘Mark as complete’ at the end of every step you read. This will help you to keep track of where you’ve go to in the course. You can see your progress at the Progress link at the top of each step.


From time to time you’ll see downloadable PDFs at the bottom of a page. These are provided to help your learning. They include transcripts, extracts and information sheets that you may want to save for future reference.


A glossary has been provided for this course. We encourage you to download it below and refer to it through the next four weeks.

Quizzes and tests

To test your knowledge at the end of the four weeks we’ve provided an end-of-course test. Your score will be available on the progress page that you’ll find a link to at the top right of this page. Quizzes pop up at the end of each week and look similar to tests but are not scored – they are included to help you learn.

Comments and discussions

There are plenty of opportunities to communicate with other learners. You’ll be able to make comments at any point in the course – just click on the pink plus symbol (+) to open the comments area. You’ll also notice discussion points, which offer a more structured dialogue with your fellow writers on key topics. Please join in!

Why not introduce yourself now by posting a comment below?

When making comments and participating in discussions, please remember that these will be visible to the thousands of learners registered on the course, so make sure you only share information that you would be happy to be publicly visible.

Profile pages

You can view the profile pages of your fellow learners, and ‘follow’ them to keep track of their comments. We recommend that you follow the lead educator, Thomas Barrett, and mentors Helen Usher and Samuel Jackson

FutureLearn and The Open University

For a quick start guide to how to learn with FutureLearn, visit the using Futurelearn site. Find out about the latest developments to the FutureLearn platform in their blog post

Get extra benefits, upgrade your course

You can now get extra benefits by upgrading this course, including:

Unlimited access to the course: Go at your own pace with unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn.

Access to tests: Ensure you’ve mastered the material with access to tests on the course.

A Certificate of Achievement: To help you demonstrate your learning we’ll send you a Certificate of Achievement when you become eligible.

Find out more

(Image: ESA/Hubble (M. Kornmesser & L. L. Christensen) / Text: © The Open University)

© The Open University
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In the Night Sky: Orion

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