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Bruce BettsMay 22, 2012

Full Free Intro Astronomy Class Now Online

My class, Introduction to Astronomy and Planetary Science, finished up and now all the classes are archived here. The class was a college course (Physics 195) offered through California State University Dominguez Hills and their very impressive distance learning DHTV program and young scholars programs, the latter offering college courses to high school juniors and seniors throughout California. All 13 action packed, or at least information packed, lectures are now archived for everyone. So, find a topic you like and dive in, or enjoy the whole course. With a strong emphasis on using amazing space images and video to illustrate the tour of topics, hopefully you will find the classes entertaining as well as educational.

The last classes took us outside the solar system out to the stars, searches for exoplanets, galaxies, the expanding universe, the possibility of life in the universe, SETI, and of course, the Big Bang. In the exoplanets class, I was joined via video Skype by Dr. Darin Ragozzine of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Darin used to work with us in Pasadena while he was a graduate student at Caltech. Now, one of the things he does is serve on the Kepler team, particularly focusing on multiplanet exoplanet systems. We had a great discussion about Kepler and his research. Guests earlier in the classes included our own Mat Kaplan and Emily Lakdawalla, and Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker.

One thing people often don’t realize is when I recorded the classes, I was alone in a windowless room. I suppose the production staff was doing something akin to containing a dangerous biological agent. All the production people were in the control room next door. It was kind of weird to talk only to cameras with no humans around. The production staff would send me messages on screens in front and below me, there were big clocks so I could keep of time, multiple cameras, and next to each cameras is a TV showing what was going out on air. That is part of why my eyes are looking around from one place to another looking to see if questions had come in, or tracking time, or making sure I was looking at the camera that was actually the camera in use. I also had a super spiffy TV touch screen next to me that I could use to draw on the images with my finger, a huge advantage for pointing things out on the many pictures I used in each class.

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I want to thank the CSUDH personnel for making it all happen. The whole thing was made possible by Dr. Warren Ashley, Director Center for Mediated Instruction and Distance Learning, who was also there for every class. Senior Producer Van Bridgeman was also instrumental, particularly with the classes that involved guests. Each class was actually run by a team of three CSUDH students: Esmeralda Avila, Brittney Uribe, and Eleanor Zimmerman. Thanks to all for such a great job, and for dealing with my sometime last minute inputs.

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I’ll let you all know, probably next week, when the final is available on our site for those masochists out there who want to take a final exam recreationally.

Read more: planetary astronomy, astronomy, podcasts and videos, life in the universe, Planetary Society Video, Planetary Society

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Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society
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