There are online courses for studying astrophysics

Astrophysics in the free online course: Stars, Galaxies and Gravitation

What is Gravity

This online video-based course offers interested learners a Introduction to the basics of astrophysics and explains concepts such as gravity and its far-reaching influences.

The course gives participants an insight into the physical phenomena caused by Stars and planets as well as galaxies including the Milky Way. It shows how one can explore the universe using the only information it provides - the light.

The course is available in English and French and is taught by an experienced astrophysicist Professor Frédéric Courbin and his team at the Swiss University EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne).

We interviewed Professor Courbin and he explained more about his MOOC (massive open online course) - and why dark energy and dark matter still exist the unknown forces in the universe are.


"Gravity is the force that shapes the universe"

Edukatico: Professor Courbin, is it correct that gravity is the dominant force in the universe? Will the participants of your MOOC be able to Understand gravity?

Professor Courbin: Gravity is everywhere and acts at infinite distances. Gravity is responsible for the shape of objects in the universe, for their movement and for their evolution over time. she is the force that shapes the universe itself.

As an introduction to astrophysics, this MOOC presents a simple Newtonian gravity and not a more complex theory of gravity with Einstein's general theory of relativity. But that's enough to get a lot of the To understand celestial bodies around usthose in the vicinity as well as those billions of light years away.


Edukatico: How is it with Dark energy and dark matter: What is the biggest obstacle so far to really understand these phenomena?

Professor Courbin: Only 4% of the universe is made up of "ordinary matter", also known as baryonic matter. The rest of the energy is Dark matter (about 25%) and Dark energy (about 71%).

The problem with dark matter is that we cannot see and recognize them, but it reacts to gravity and creates gravity. We therefore have an indication of their distribution through their effect on celestial bodies or even on light due to the gravitational lensing effect.

Dark energy is said to be responsible for the observed accelerated expansion of the universe and acts as a repulsive force that balances gravity. However, we know even less about dark energy than we do about dark matter and only indirect observations help to understand them. If Einstein's description of gravity over cosmological distances were not completely correct, the existence of dark energy would not even be necessary to explain the accelerated expansion of the universe.

The main obstacle in cosmology right now is that many different and little-known phenomena affect observations in similar ways. Hence it is very difficult to find out what physical phenomenon which observation is responsible for.

It's like trying to guess the shape of an object from the shape of its shadow: if you don't know where the sun is, you can't answer this question.

Intro to the astrophysics online course


"The participants can understand the basics without having to perform complex calculations"

Edukatico: What are other important topicsthat are covered in your online course?

Professor Courbin: The course covers very broad spectrum from the formation of stars, planets and galaxies to the interaction between light and matter. He also introduces some elements of cosmology.

Each topic is in a simplified but still realistic way so that the participants can understand the basics without long and complex calculations. Only a few videos are a bit more technical.

In many cases, the course also provides the Link between theoretical predictions and observations here. The latter are done with telescopes over a wide range of wavelengths, from X-rays to visible light to radio waves.


Edukatico: Who can join your Participate in the course? Is it intended for students or the general public?

Professor Courbin: Basic knowledge of mathematics and physics is required. The course is at university level, but is presented in a simplified form.

In some places, the math and physics level can go beyond what the general public normally knows. But in total you can use 50% of the course good school knowledge or first-semester knowledge are understood.


Edukatico: Your course is on French and English available. Is the content identical in each case? Are there any other languages?

Professor Courbin: Yes the Content is the same. In fact, the English version is more of a dubbing than a true English version (which would require everything to be re-recorded in the studio).

I also speak Spanish, so in principle I could also do the course in this language, but everything would have to be re-recorded here too. Synchronization in other languages, however, remains an option.


Edukatico: Thank you for this overview and good luck with your MOOC!


The online course in astrophysics is called a MOOC (massive open online course) offered on the edX platform.

The course is free for learners and already had 14,000 participants out 130 countries (8,000 in the French version and 6,000 in the English version released a year ago). The participants are on average 25 years old and 30% of the learners are women.


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