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Learn astronomy with online courses and programs

Explore how humans have come to understand our place within the universe. Learn about astronomy with an online astronomy course delivered through edX.

What is astronomy?

Astronomy is the study of the universe, including stars, planets, galaxies, and other celestial objects and phenomena. Astronomers use telescopes, satellites, and other tools to observe the universe, analyze data, and develop theories about its structure and evolution.Footnote 1 Different subfields of astronomy include but are not limited to: 

  • Astrophysics: Exploration of the physical and chemical processes that take place in stars and galaxies. 

  • Cosmology: The study of the structure and evolution of the universe. 

  • Planetary science: The research of planets, moons, and other small bodies in the solar system. 

  • Solar astronomy: The investigation of the sun and other objects in the solar system. 

  • Stellar astronomy: The study of stars and their evolution. 

  • Galactic astronomy: The inquiry of the structure and evolution of galaxies. 

  • Extragalactic astronomy: Exploration of galaxies beyond our own. 

  • Astrobiology: The study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe.

Throughout history, discoveries made by astronomers have enabled us to accurately measure time, in order to build calendars and understand the seasons. Astronomers have also been able to accurately measure the position of celestial bodies, to help us better understand motion, navigation, and the movement of the planets. Astronomy has played an integral role in the study of our own planet, its climate, and the effects of our actions on it, and has led to the development of new technologies that have improved our lives in numerous ways, from satellite communications to weather forecasting.Footnote 2

Are you interested in studying the vastness of the universe from the comfort of your home? Enroll in an astronomy class online today.

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Astronomy course curriculum

Working as an astronomer can require knowledge of a wide range of subjects, depending on the subdiscipline you choose, which can include: mathematics, physics, astrophysics, celestial mechanics, computational methods, data analysis, and computer programming. 

To advance your understanding of the field of astronomy, edX offers a variety of online courses. Learn astrophysics from experts in the field with classes that explore the mysteries of our universe from exoplanets to quantum mechanics and relativity. Or take a deep dive into space mission design to learn more about orbital maneuvers, space vehicle architecture, and the space environment.

With astronomy courses online, you can take the next step toward an exciting career rooted in scientific exploration. Search through the different bachelor’s degree programs, master’s degree programs, and boot camps offered by edX that can help you acquire the necessary educational background to launch a career in this space.

Explore astronomy jobs

A career as an astronomer offers the opportunity to study the universe, its structure, and its evolution. Professionals who want to pursue this path can expect to:Footnote 3

  • Observe celestial phenomena using a variety of astronomical instruments

  • Collect, analyze and interpret astronomical data

  • Develop theories and models to explain astronomical phenomena 

  • Create computer simulations to study astronomical phenomena

  • Develop predictions about future astronomical events

  • Design and build telescopes, cameras and other astronomical equipment 

  • Advise governments and organizations on space exploration

However, there are other jobs in astronomy that learners interested in the field can consider, such as: 

  • Astrophysicist: Astrophysicists study the physical behavior of stars, galaxies, and other astronomical objects. They use mathematics, physics, and computer simulation to understand the behavior of these objects. 

  • Observatory scientist: Observatory scientists work at astronomical observatories, collecting data from the universe and interpreting it to gain a better understanding of the universe and its evolution. 

  • Space mission planner: Space mission planners are responsible for developing, coordinating, and implementing long-term space exploration plans.

  • Spacecraft engineer: Spacecraft engineers design and build spacecraft that are used to explore the universe. They must be familiar with astronomy, as well as the engineering principles needed to design and build the spacecraft.

  • Data analyst: Data analysts use the data collected by astronomers and astrophysicists to draw conclusions and make predictions. They may also be responsible for creating visualizations of the data, such as graphs and diagrams. 

  • Educator: Educators with a background in astronomy use their knowledge to teach others about the universe. They may work in schools, museums, or planetariums, helping students and other visitors to understand the universe. 

How to become an astronomer online 

Pursuing a career in the field of astronomy requires advanced levels of education. Astronomers typically hold a PhD in physics, astronomy, or a related field in order to work in research and academia. Graduate programs in astronomy and physics may require candidates to hold an undergraduate degree in physical science or a related field such as engineering. In addition to astronomy and physics, graduate programs can cover subjects such as calculus, linear algebra, statistics, and computer science. Educational coursework can be supplemented with internships and supervised research.Footnote 4

However, each job is different and has different requirements. There are jobs such as research assistants and technicians that do not require PhDs. Before you commit to a learning path, make sure to understand the requirements of the role that you will be applying for, such as knowledge of specific programming languages. Whether you are pursuing a bachelor’s in computer science, a master’s in data science, or even a boot camp in coding, the knowledge that you acquire can work toward your professional goals.