CosmoAcademy Classes for the general public cover everything from subjects covered in Astronomy 101 (overview of the Solar System and beyond) to current research on what’s going on inside black holes. Our classes are designed for interested but busy adults, who are interested in science but may not have any formal science education. For that reason, we provide classes both in ordinary astronomy college classes, but also specialized topics that would normally be considered “advanced” — all at a level appropriate for busy non-scientists.
A typical class consists of four hour-long meetings conducted via Google+ Hangout or Zoom. This format lets everyone hear each other and view visual materials from the instructor. Each class is taught by an expert: a working scientist, science teacher, or other professional with detailed knowledge of their subject. So, you’ll get asteroid classes taught by asteroid researchers, black hole classes taught by experts on gravity, courses on analyzing and processing astronomical images from people who do that sort of thing for a living. And unlike massive online classes (MOOCs and similar), our class sizes are deliberately kept small, so you’ll get to know and talk to your instructor.
The classes are mostly independent of each other, but if you want to learn a lot about a particular subject, we offer various certificates to link classes together. Each class is given a three-digit number, where the first digit indicates the basic level of the course. To complete a certificate, complete any combination of classes from the certificate category from one of these guidelines:
- At least one class from each level (100 level, 200 level, 300 level, and 400 level); OR
- Any other combination adding to 1000 or greater (e.g. two 200-level + two 300-level)
- You get a CosmoAcademy Expert Certificate for taking classes worth 2000 points or more in a certificate category
You can take any class in the catalog whether you plan to complete a certificate or not. Most classes don’t have strict prerequisites and those that do are clearly marked, so you can take them in any order based on your interests and when classes are offered (which will depend on instructor availability). In other words: you don’t have to take a 100-level, followed by a 200-level, etc. You can take the 400-level first if that’s what works for you! Additionally, most classes are listed in multiple categories, so they may be applied toward more than one certificate.
NB: All class names/topics are just starting points
Other classes may be added to each category, or modified to fit instructor expertise
- Certificate A: Astronomy From the Ground Up
This certificate offers the broadest range of classes for people interested in learning a variety of subjects in astronomy. Best for people who want to learn as much as possible but don’t particularly want or need deep dives into specific topics. This is the easiest certificate to get: nearly all classes apply toward it!
- Certificate B: Planets and Planetary Science
Planetary science is the study of planets (wow!), but also of moons, asteroids, comets, and other planetary bodies. Courses in this category cover the known worlds in our Solar System, but also exoplanets.
- Certificate C: Stars and Stellar Evolution
Almost everything you see in the night sky is a star, and galaxies shine largely by the light of their stars. Additionally, nearly every type of atom in your body was made by a star, and life on Earth relies on the energy from a single nearby star (the Sun). In other words, the cycle of star birth, life, and death constitute much of the visible stuff in the universe, along with affecting its chemistry and biology. Additionally, the corpses of stars—white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes—shape their environments in profound ways.
- Certificate D: Galaxies and Cosmology
The Milky Way is our cosmic home, but it’s only one of 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. The study of galaxies, including their locations, helps us understand the cosmos as a whole: its contents, history, and future. This certificate includes both the study of galaxies and cosmology, along with dark matter, dark energy, and the Big Bang.
- Certificate E: Picturing the Sky
Images from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Cassini orbiter, and any number of other observatories are some of the most beautiful pictures in existence. Classes in this category cover how those are images made, and how you can create your own. Topics include image processing and manipulation, using your own camera or phone to take pictures of the sky, and explanations of how scientific images are created.
- Certificate F: Ways of Seeing
Astronomy at its heart is about observation: taking light or other messengers from space and interpreting them. This certificate is all about observatories and how they work. Topics include the nature of light, the challenges of observing types of light our eyes can’t see (radio, infrared, X-rays, and so forth), doing astronomy with high-energy particles from deep space, and gravitational waves.
- Certificate G: Life, the Universe, and Everything
Is there life elsewhere in the universe, and has any of it evolved to become intelligent (whatever that means)? Is our universe all there is, or are we just in one bubble of a multiverse? Did everything start with the Big Bang, or was there an earlier existence? And how can we answer any of these questions? This certificate covers astrobiology, the search for life (including “intelligent life”), and the study of the very early universe—in other words, the way scientists approach questions that come up in late-night dorm-room conversations and science-fiction novels.
- Certificate H: Gravity, Black Holes, and Other Weighty Matters
Gravity governs the motion of planets around stars, the structure of galaxies, and the evolution of the entire universe. At its extreme, it creates black holes, objects so dense nothing can escape them, not even light. Additionally, a whole new field of study—gravitational wave astronomy—has begun with the observation of colliding black holes through the gravitational disturbances they create. Classes in this category range from traditional study of planet orbits up to cutting-edge research in black holes and the early universe.