Free online courses for amateur space explorers

Want to learn more about planetary science and astronomy? Top universities around the world run open online courses that anyone can take - free of charge. You won't get credit or a degree from CalTech or MIT, but you get to learn about space and our place in it from the top scientists in the world.

Exploring the Universe

  • Analyzing the Universe (Coursera) - Taught by Rutgers University professor Terry Matilsky, this 6-week course teaches you how to analyze data from Nasa’s X-ray space telescopes. (Starts Oct 2014)
  • Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe (EdX) - Taught by Australian National University professors Brian Schmidt and Paul Francis, this 10-week course introduces you to the big research areas of modern astronomy. (Self-paced, open enrollment)
  • Origins - Formation of the Universe, Solar System, Earth and Life (Coursera) - Taught by University of Copenhagen professor Henning Haack, this 7-week course takes you from the Big Bang through the evolution of life on Earth. (Starts Nov 2014)
  • Cosmology and Astronomy (Khan Academy) - A series of videos that take you from the Big Bang through Earth’s formation and the evolution of life. (Self paced, open enrollment)
  • Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life (Coursera) - Taught by University of Edinburgh astrobiology professor Charles Cockell, this 5-week course looks at organisms living in extreme environments on Earth as well as missions searching for life in the Solar System and beyond. (Starts Jan 2015)
  • Exoplanets (EdX) - Taught by Australian National University professors Brian Schmidt and Paul Francis, this 10-week course uses high school math and science to introduce the latest research into the search for planets orbiting other stars. (Self-paced, open enrollment)
  • Backyard Astronomy (Udacity) - Amateur astronomer Rod Miller leads this series of brief video tutorials for novice amateur astronomers. (Self-paced, open enrollment)
  • Astronomy - State of the Art (Udacity) - Led by University of Arizona professor Chris Impey, this course reviews the latest developments in modern astronomy (Self-paced, open enrollment)

Exploring the Solar System

  • The Science of the Solar System (Coursera) - Taught by CalTech professor of planetary astronomy Mike Brown, this 9-week course looks at four hot topics in planetary science: water on Mars, the interiors of giant planets, comets and asteroids as archives of the early Solar System, and the possibility of life beyond Earth. (Starts Mar 2015)
  • Mars: the Next Frontier (CanvasNet) - Space Center Houston Instructor Shawn Burg teaches this 15-week course about the exploration of the red planet. (Self paced for teams of middle or high school students) 
  • Moons (FutureLearn) - Taught by Open University professor David Rothery, this 8-week course looks at the hundreds of moons in the Solar System. (Starts Feb 2015)

Exploring Earth

  • The Dynamic Earth: A Course for Educators (Coursera) - Taught by the American Museum of Natural History’s Edmond Mathez and Ro Kinzler, this 4-week course uses Next Generation Science Standards to teach the geological history of Earth and how to apply that to a school’s local geology. (Started Sep 2014)
  • Volcanic Eruptions: a Material Science (Coursera) - Taught by LMU Munich professor Don Dingwell, this 10-week course explains volcanism based on the physics and chemistry of the solid Earth. (Starts Oct 2014)
  • GPS: An Introduction to Satellite Navigation (Coursera) - Taught by Stanford University professors Per Enge and Frank van Diggelen, this 6-week course teaches the basics of satellite navigation and how to do backyard GPS experiments. (Starts Oct 2014)
  • From GPS and Google Maps to Spatial Computing (Coursera) - Taught by University of Minnesota professors Brent Hecht and Shashi Shekhar, this 8-week course teaches how GPS and Google Maps work and how to build apps using mapping data. (Started Sep 2014)