A Visual Guide to the Universe with the Smithsonian

In partnership with
Professor David M. Meyer, Ph.D.
Northwestern University
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91% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 1893
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Course Overview

For the first time in human history, we can see the full splendor and mystery of the universe, thanks to instruments on scores of planetary probes and observatories that have been launched into space since the 1990s.

From Saturn’s rings to the heart of the Milky Way, and from colliding galaxies to cataclysmic gamma-ray bursts at the edges of visible space, some of the most spectacular sights in the cosmos are now as easy to see as the stars above. Many of these cosmic phenomena occur at wavelengths of light that are beyond the range of human vision and can only be detected by special instruments in space.

The dazzling new images are not just a data bonanza for scientists; they have entered popular culture, appearing in art galleries and coffee-table books, as well as on posters, T-shirts, and even postage stamps. Above all, this stunning archive is providing a new perspective on our dynamic universe, including views such as these:

  • Solar magnetic storms: The Solar Dynamics Observatory has recorded dramatic time-lapse footage of the sun in ultraviolet light, including a huge explosion of material from the solar atmosphere, with debris smashing back into the sun’s seething outer layer.
  • Runaway star: A normal-looking nearby star is in fact racing through space more than 20 times faster than a rifle bullet. The action shows up in an infrared view, which beautifully reveals a shock wave of interstellar gas in front of the star, like the bow wave on a speedboat.
  • Galactic crash scene: When viewed in wavelengths beyond human vision, Andromeda, the nearest large galaxy to our own, displays evidence of having been struck 200 million years ago by a dwarf galaxy—just as Andromeda will one day collide with our Milky Way.

  • Dark matter revealed: Most of the matter in the universe doesn't emit, absorb, or scatter light at any wavelength. The most convincing proof that this dark matter must exist shows up in combined X-ray and visible light images of distant colliding galaxy clusters.

And that’s only the beginning. Our instruments in space have prospected for water and life on Mars, detected thousands of possible planets orbiting other stars, mapped superheated matter swirling into gigantic black holes, and deciphered the all-pervasive echo of the big bang, which is the key to understanding the large-scale structure of the universe.

The fantastic scientific story behind these remarkable images is yours in A Visual Guide to the Universe, produced in partnership with the Smithsonian—one of the world’s most storied and exceptional educational institutions. These 18 lavishly illustrated lectures that take you from our neighborhood of the solar system to the farthest reaches of space and time. Your guide is Professor David M. Meyer, an award-winning teacher, popular public speaker, and distinguished astronomer at Northwestern University.

Greatest Hits of Astronomy’s Golden Age

Designed for astronomy novices and practiced observers alike, A Visual Guide to the Universe covers a wide range of telling phenomena that have made our era a golden age of astronomical discovery. In selecting the images, Professor Meyer has aimed for variety and scientific significance, while also focusing on key concepts in astronomy, making this course an ideal visual tour through today’s thrilling science of the universe.

As Professor Meyer discusses different images, you learn background ideas such as the electromagnetic spectrum and the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram for charting stellar evolution. You also hear about techniques for finding extrasolar planets in the glare of faraway stars and the breakthroughs that make today’s cutting-edge space probes and observatories possible. Illuminating diagrams and animations help explain what’s going on in each image.

Meet the Explorers

Many people associate space exploration with human spaceflight. But the most productive scientific workhorses of the space age have been robotic instruments such as these:

  • Cassini probe: The first spacecraft to orbit Saturn, Cassini has been sending back high-resolution images of the ringed planet and its moons since 2004. Among the findings: The moon Enceladus has towering surface geysers spewing water ice and organic molecules into space.
  • Hubble Space Telescope: Capable of resolving objects 10 times smaller than the largest ground-based telescopes, Hubble has been revolutionizing optical astronomy for more than two decades. Its countless images include breathtaking studies of far distant galaxies.
  • Spitzer Space Telescope: Details of star birth are often hidden from optical view inside dark clouds of interstellar dust. But the process is crystal clear in infrared, which Spitzer is designed to detect, making it the ideal instrument for observing star and solar system formation.
  • Chandra X-Ray Observatory: Extremely energetic processes in the universe produce X-rays, which are very difficult to focus. Chandra does just that, allowing it to image the violent events connected with black holes and other phenomena that heat gas to extreme temperatures.

Among your many adventures, you explore the red planet with the Mars rovers, orbit an asteroid with the Dawn space probe, solve the mystery of gamma-ray bursts with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, and take an extraordinary “baby picture” of the early universe with the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe. In case after case, you use multiple instruments to view the same object at different wavelengths, learning how each portion of the electromagnetic spectrum contains clues that let you assemble a remarkably complete picture of events happening up to billions of light-years away.

Of course, the true space explorers are the astronomers and other scientists who direct the activities of these far-flung machines. Professor Meyer is one such investigator, having used space telescopes many times in his research. He speaks from experience when he describes the astounding missions—exploits that can be compared to those of Columbus, Magellan, and Lewis and Clark.

With A Visual Guide to the Universe, you have an opportunity to embark on our era’s greatest voyages of discovery, guided by Professor Meyer, the Smithsonian, and The Great Courses. Without leaving home, you’ll find the view is truly out of this world!

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18 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Probing the Cosmos from Space
    Prepare for your cosmic journey by surveying NASA’s space exploration strategy. Although human spaceflight gets the lion’s share of publicity, the greatest scientific discoveries in space are the work of planetary probes and space observatories. Learn why this approach has paid off so spectacularly. x
  • 2
    The Magnetic Beauty of the Active Sun
    Explore the sun in astonishing detail through the multispectral instruments of the Solar Dynamics Observatory. See debris from magnetic storms explode into space and then crash back into the sun. Learn how these mammoth outbursts affect Earth. x
  • 3
    Mars: Water and the Search for Life
    Discover that Mars is a water world whose surface dried up long ago and may once have supported life. Four robotic rovers have landed on Mars, including the sophisticated Curiosity rover, now crawling across the planet searching for clues connected to microbial life forms. x
  • 4
    Vesta and the Asteroid Belt
    Study fossil remains of the early solar system, preserved in the rocky debris of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Focus on one of the largest asteroids, Vesta, viewing it close up via the Dawn spacecraft. Learn how pieces of Vesta have fallen to Earth as meteorites. x
  • 5
    Saturn: The Rings of Enchantment
    Examine Saturn through the eyes of the Cassini probe, which has been orbiting the ringed planet since 2004, taking spectacular pictures of Saturn’s cloud tops, moons, and especially the enigmatic ring system. Examine competing theories for the origin of this complex circular band. x
  • 6
    The Ice Moons Europa and Enceladus
    Focus on two enigmatic ice worlds: Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Both may harbor liquid water beneath their icy crusts. Weigh the chances that life exists in these underground oceans, despite the extreme cold in the outer solar system. x
  • 7
    The Search for Other Earths
    Join the Kepler telescope in the search for other Earths. Kepler has spotted thousands of candidate planets orbiting other stars, including many that are roughly Earth-sized. Learn how planets are detected at stellar distances, and study the conditions needed to support life. x
  • 8
    The Swan Nebula
    Venture into a nearby spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy, as imaged in infrared light by the Spitzer Space Telescope. See how Spitzer’s panorama of the Swan nebula reveals that spiral arms are active regions of star formation, showing up brilliantly in the infrared band. x
  • 9
    The Seven Sisters and Their Stardust Veil
    The Pleiades cluster, or Seven Sisters, is one of the most beautiful star formations in the heavens. Discover the origin of the wispy nebulae that surround these bright stars. In the process, learn how the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram is a powerful tool for estimating the ages of star clusters. x
  • 10
    Future Supernova, Eta Carinae
    Explore the imminent fate of the luminous star Eta Carinae, a ticking bomb due to explode as a supernova in the next few hundred thousand years. Study the life cycle of stars, and trace the history of Eta Carinae to mysterious events first observed in 1843. x
  • 11
    Runaway Star, Zeta Ophiuchi
    Why is the enormous star Zeta Ophiuchi careening through our galaxy at unusually high speed? Probe the mystery of this runaway star and its gorgeous shock wave, using images from the Spitzer Space Telescope and other observatories to tell a story of massive interacting stars and a likely supernova explosion. x
  • 12
    The Center of the Milky Way
    Travel to the most exotic sector of the Milky Way, the galactic center, which has a black hole four million times more massive than the sun and is orbited by hot gas and giant stars. View this violent region at multiple wavelengths using the most advanced telescopes of our day. x
  • 13
    The Andromeda Galaxy
    Investigate the nearby Andromeda galaxy, tracing its puzzling spiral arms. Use images from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer and other telescopes to gather evidence that something once crashed into Andromeda. Then chart Andromeda’s collision course with our own galaxy! x
  • 14
    Hubble's Galaxy Zoo
    Use the sharp eye of the Hubble Space Telescope to survey some of the most peculiar galaxies in the local universe. Focus on Hoag’s Object, a ring galaxy with a yellow nucleus, surrounded by a nearly perfect circle of hot blue stars. Explore competing ideas for the origin of this unique structure. x
  • 15
    The Brightest Quasar
    Travel to some of the most distant and luminous objects in the universe: quasars. Discovered in the early 1960s, these active galaxies are associated with matter-devouring supermassive black holes. Investigate the brightest and first-found quasar, called 3C 273, and learn what it reveals about the early universe. x
  • 16
    The Dark Side of the Bullet Cluster
    Investigate mounting evidence that invisible dark matter must exist. Then see how telescopes scanning the sky at different wavelengths have mapped the distribution of dark matter, notably in a collection of distant colliding galaxy clusters called the Bullet Cluster. x
  • 17
    The Cosmic Reach of Gamma-Ray Bursts
    Search for the origin of the most powerful explosions since the big bang. Known as gamma-ray bursts, these colossal beams of high-energy radiation are among our deepest views into the cosmic past. Also consider the chance that a nearby gamma-ray burst could cause a mass extinction on Earth. x
  • 18
    The Afterglow of the Big Bang
    Conclude your cosmic tour by probing the echo of creation: the faint afterglow of the big bang, which is present everywhere in space. View this signal in increasing detail provided by spacecraft, and uncover its astonishing story about the earliest epoch of our vast universe. x

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 146-page course synopsis
  • Photos, charts & illustrations
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  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

David M. Meyer

About Your Professor

David M. Meyer, Ph.D.
Northwestern University
Dr. David M. Meyer is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Northwestern University, where he is also Director of the Dearborn Observatory and Co-Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics. He earned his B.S. in Astrophysics from the University of Wisconsin, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles. He continued his studies as a Robert R....
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A Visual Guide to the Universe with the Smithsonian is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 72.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Visual Guide to the Universe with the Smithsonian This is a great series. Forget the TV and movies. This course beats them all. It's fun, educational and stimulating, plus some outstanding photos. Where do I get more?
Date published: 2018-11-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from In depth Astronomy, but not good teacher Lots of interesting topics in Astronomy, but too often I am left with the feeling that I dont really underdtand. And the professor makes frequent refeance to previus lectures, but fails to refresh, or review any important terminology! There should be more subtitles reinforcing the key new concept and terminology.
Date published: 2018-04-20
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Visual History of the Universe Unfortunately, the content was beyond me and I returned the course.
Date published: 2018-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stellar! Most courses have an aspect of weakness either with the presenter, content or supporting media. I cannot find fault with this course. It is perfect in every way. I wish other courses were as well done. The topics are interesting and go to sufficient depth to be challenging and satisfying. The visuals are clear attractive and informative. The pace is perfect. If you like the cosmos and astronomy this course doesn't flag or fail.
Date published: 2018-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brings the universe to life David Meyer's clearly taught and stunningly illustrated 'guide' to aspects of the cosmos is absolutely one of the best Great Courses I have ever bought. Dr Meyer lets us ordinary mortals in on so much of what has been recently discovered and understood in a field of study which is difficult to do but produces such dramatic results. This has reawakened my childhood fascination with science, and especially astronomy (I'm 75!) and I look forward to spending my upcoming retirement years pursuing this further through reading ... and, naturally, more Great Courses.
Date published: 2018-02-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Science Lite This is a little shorter than the average Great Course: 3 discs, comprising 18 lectures in 9 hours. There are various ways you could organize a course with this title: by history of discoveries or by various broad topical categories for example. The way this course organizes the presentation is pretty much from near to far. The first disc presents what we've learned in recent decades about our solar system; the second disc presents what we learned about our "milky way" and the third disc presents what we've learned about the vast universe beyond our own galaxy. This is fairly light on theory, and toward the end of the course I sort of felt like the main justification for its existence was to convince the public of the worthiness of funding space-based telescopes and probes (which certainly doesn't immediately produce improvements in the average person's standard of living). I didn't need that convincing; I'm all for continuing to advance our understanding of the universe in which we are located. If you haven't already watched other documentaries on the discoveries of modern astronomy (and there have been quite a few) then you may find this fascinating. If on the other hand you have watched a fair number of documentaries on modern astronomy, you may find yourself picking up a few particular facts here and there, or simply refreshing your memory about something you heard before. I think this is suitable for a high-school to undergraduate college-level, visually-based review of the field.
Date published: 2018-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful! I have only recently received and viewed the first four of these lectures, but they are superb! The lecturer speaks in very academic, yet understandable, terms that make the content very exciting. He makes me want to read and study more about this subject. I am a veteran subscriber of The Great Courses, possessing more than 175 courses, and this one certainly maintains the tradition of excellence.This particular course is very well done and stimulates the imagination!
Date published: 2018-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from GREAT MATERIAL PRESENTED IN AN INTELLIGENT WAY This lecturer is very direct and very focused on the material and it's clear explanation. He makes complicated material as simple as it can be made. I would gladly buy any new courses he makes.
Date published: 2018-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Majesty and Mystery in Outer Space I’ve been interested in astronomy since I was a kid in the 60s: visiting observatories and the Adler Planetarium, then stargazing with the family on a blanket in the back yard, or counting meteors. All that took place before the advent of the Hubble telescope and its kin, so it’s amazing to see what I was missing before the advent of space telescopes and the search beyond the optical spectrum. As usual, TGC has sought out a professor who is not only enthusiastic, but also deeply involved in research and exploration. He occasionally exhibits an almost boyish excitement about some discovery or other, as he takes his students along for a ride in deep space. This course is visually stunning, illustrated with hundreds of views of planets, nebulae, and quasars. It is more or less an introductory course; as the title implied, it’s a “guide” – like the bus tours you can take in famous cities around the world, where you see the highlights but don’t learn all the history. But that’s OK, and I’m not saying that Prof. Meyer avoids going into more detailed scientific discussions. He does from time to time, but for the most part, this is a course that even a curious middle schooler would enjoy. The trouble with science courses is their shelf life. Even though this was produced in 2014, by 2017 it’s already dated: some of the satellite exploration that the Prof talks about “in the future” happened earlier this year. But most of the information is still relevant, especially to those of us who are being introduced to it for the first time. This course reflects TGC’s higher standards of visual production, with custom intros for each episode, and excellent visuals. My only regret is that no closed captioning was provided, unlike some other recent courses.
Date published: 2017-12-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Awesome Easy to listen to, great content, amazing photos. For me he speaks way too quickly and l'll never be able to understand parts of the presentation. Also he uses the metric system, which I've never been able to handle. Even so, the parts that I did understand and the photos made it a worthy purchase which I will watch repeatedly. Note: He does teach about natural cosmic objects but there is also much time spent describing the machinery that takes images of said objects. At first I found this irritating, but once I accepted it, I became enjoyably fascinated with the knowledge and photos of those machines.
Date published: 2017-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great program very well presented, however it was spoiled somewhat by the manufacturing quality of the discs, many noticeable small skips and freezes, will have to live with them as it would cost more to send them back than what they are worth.
Date published: 2017-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting and Understandable The format has been well thought out. I particularly like the historical aspect and its impact relative to the time. Gravity is a big topic and could be pretty dull. So far it has kept my attention, and I look forward to completing the series. It is refreshing to have a focused subject as opposed to a broad review.
Date published: 2017-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Visuals! I enjoyed every episode, learned a lot, but especially enjoyed the visuals!
Date published: 2017-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Visual Guide to the Univers I just finished this course and it has changed my perception of myself and the universe forever. There are some parts that are technical/mathematical but 99% is understandable and profound. Dr. Meyer was excellent with flawless diction and clarity. He made the universe understandable and interesting.
Date published: 2017-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic photography A great course presented in a clear and interesting manner by the professor. As a person with no real understanding of the universe he made the topics comprehensible even to me. The accompanying photography was stunning. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2017-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Stellar Course! I've purchased almost all of The Great Courses on astronomy and this is the one I've enjoyed most. This is because of the excellent presentation skills of professor Meyer. He knows his material so well that he doesn't appear to be reading from a script, and his enthusiasm carries the course along in a lively and flowing manner. One has the feeling of being in class with a masterful professor lecturing on a subject he has real passion for. He speaks like a scientist explaining exciting concepts to astronomy students, not like a Carl Sagan wannabe acting out for a TV audience of high school dropouts. The theme of the course is understanding how astronomers synthesize data from many sources, Hubble, Chandra, and many others, to develope a working knowledge of stars, galaxies and the universe as a whole. Dr. Meyer has accomplished this in a remarkably coherent and understandable fashion. For example, he presents data from several sources explaining the concept of dark matter in a very understandable lecture.
Date published: 2016-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great intro to Astronomy with AWESOME Photos! This course was entertaining and easy to watch. Enthusiastic presentation made the lectures fly by and the concepts were all easily understandable. I highly recommend this series if you are interested in seeing and understanding some of the most spectacular wonders of our universe!
Date published: 2016-10-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from For the amateur scientist I liked Professor Meyer very much - he was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic with a good presentation. However I found this course was difficult to follow for someone lacking a good science background. It's difficult to rate since, overall, this is the Teaching Company course I have liked the least. However if scientific concepts are your cup of tea, you'll probably love it.
Date published: 2016-09-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Geared to lay people. Easy to understand and retain
Date published: 2016-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Sequel to Experiencing Hubble Course This is the 2nd course from Professor Meyer that is offered by The Great Courses and it is an excellent sequel to the first course on Experiencing Hubble. Professor Meyer provides updated information on some of the topics covered in the first course but also provides new material. The material in this course is not just limited to the wonderful results of the Hubble telescope but also combines the results from other space based telescopes as well as the improved terrestrial based observatories. The results of ultra-red, microwave, and visible light observations are combined into one comprehensive image with vibrant colors. The audio-visual components of this course are excellent. There is wide use of high definition images, videos and animations. The vibrant images should the wonders of the universe in amazing colors. All of the lectures are excellent but I would have to pick lecture #14 on the Hubble Galaxy’s Zoo as my familiar. Lecture #14 contains many images of beautiful galaxies and especially spiral galaxies like the Milky Way. Lecture #14 also contains images of unusually shaped galaxies which is very interesting. The Great Courses have many excellent course on astrophysics and the universe and this latest course from Professor Meyer is another superb additional to the overall collection. I highly recommend this course to anybody who has any interest in space and the universe.
Date published: 2016-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A nice followup from the Hubble course After I went through the Hubble course by this professor I wanted to see additional details from the other satellites he mentioned. This course is that and has a similar broad type of information shared.
Date published: 2016-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from FANTASTIC COURSE! This is simply a superb course, in terms of everything from subject matter, visual attraction, to presentation. I have seen both of Prof. Meyer's courses and I think he is wonderful. He takes complex subject matter and translates it into a language that non-experts can understand. Prof. Meyer has a passion for the subject that comes through in his technical, yet somewhat "folksy" presentation. And, as the course title implies, the visual presentations from the various space probes and satellites is breath-taking. A marvelous collaboration between the Smithsonian and The Great Courses.
Date published: 2015-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Astounding Astronomical Views "A Visual Guide" certainly provides stunning visuals of the denizens of the Universe. In addition, the computer graphics simulations illustrating spacecraft, astronomical phenomena and the like are equally illustrative and professionally done. In fact, most of the video content is comprised of these visuals. Bravo to the producers for such outstanding content. Professor Meyer speaks from a traditional set backed-up by some space artifacts and wall photos. This works well as the interludes showing the professor speaking might detract from the space visuals and graphics were he speaking from a high tech looking set; the results are good segues. This course is loaded with content as amid this cornucopia of stunning visual effects, Dr. Meyer gives a survey of solar physics, explanation for planet formation, search for life beyond Earth in our solar system, searches for Earth-like exoplanets, astrophysics of star formation, supernova, quasars, gamma ray bursts, etc,, some cosmology of the origin of the universe, and introduces more esoteric things like Black Holes and Dark Matter. Though he does try to keep the explanations at a general level, he does move pretty quickly through this cosmological zoo. Thus, a basic understanding of the concepts of college level physics including gravity, temperature/kinetic energy, light spectra, electromagnetism, and very basic atomic physics will certainly help as background for this course. The course does not require much mathematical depth. But there are some basic units, for example, of distance (parsecs and light-years) and temperature (degrees Kelvin vs Celsius) that Dr. Meyer assumes the student is familiar with or can quickly look up. While it is difficult to find or imagine a higher quality of production among The Great Courses portfolio, the professor's presentation could be better. While he speaks in a very clear voice (which is mostly what you experience as the visuals are in view for the bulk of the course) he does seem a bit rushed, as if he is working hard to beat a 30 minute timer. He often finishes his lecture with 2-3 minutes to spare vs. this benchmark, so he could have slowed down a bit. During the few times the professor is in view, his body language is relatively constrained and could have been more "open". The accompanying course guide provides very good lecture summaries and a thorough annotated bibliography. But, if there is one course guide that doesn't contain a glossary and could really use one this is it. The professor uses technical jargon at a high rate and a glossary would certainly help digest it all. I found this course quite captivating and I highly recommend it. I had taken Dr. Meyer's TGC course, "Experiencing Hubble" previously and I recommend (and Dr. Meyer almost assumes) it as a prerequisite to this course. Other TGC courses in this area that relate are Dr. Mark Whittle's "Cosmology" course--which goes into more depth on the beginnings and evolution of the universe, Dr. Alex Filippenko's "Black Holes Explained", and Dr. Sean Carroll's "Dark Matter, Dark Energy." These can be taken before or after "A Visual Guide to the Universe".
Date published: 2015-07-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very impressive overview This course was presented very well and for the most part, jargon was minimal. The pictures and techniques used by researchers was very impressive and the course entices me go look further in this area of inquiry. The instructor was clear and concise in his presentation and overall, very informative and enjoyable.
Date published: 2015-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Smithsonian Cosmos Very slick presentation with a lot of interesting content. It presents a great deal of material about the most recent probes into space exploration. The presenter is very good at his jobs and the visuals are fantastic.
Date published: 2015-03-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Title I was under the impression that this was a course for everyone and I have a technical background in electronics. The technical explanations caused me to lose interest. I wanted a course that was showing the universe from the telescope perspective and some background on it. I did not want all the technical aspects of all of it. The description of the course should make it clear on what you are getting. Thankfully, I did not pay full price for this course. I am still going through it and fast forwarding through alot of the technical portions. The presenter is very well informed and does try to make it easy to understand. I would recommend this to someone that has a very scientific background and interest.
Date published: 2015-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Partners Loved this course! Had me riveted the whole time, and when the end came, I was disappointed and left wanting more. With each lecture, I found myself sitting in amazement at the marvel of human technology and ingenuity that has gone by largely unnoticed by the public. I fondly remember going to the Air & Space Museum several times as a kid, but all of this content, the images and video, I couldn’t even dream of this. If this is what a partnership between the Smithsonian and TGC begets, then by all means make some more. For me, it was something of a Goldilocks course: the amount of science content was just right (not to hard or easy); the visuals were captivating and explained perfectly; the units organized logically, from close to home to far away; and the speaker wasn’t chained to the teleprompter. Pegging the content was probably really difficult. I’ve seen a number of astronomy courses already, so I’m not coming at this from with a blank slate and high interest. Since I majored in the humanities, science isn’t exactly my strong suit either. I’d guess that while it’s not appropriate for a first astronomy course, it’s not quite intermediate either. The hardest concept was the Dark Matter unit. One of my favorite aspects of the course was—in addition to the spectacular images—learning about how we actually know so much about the universe we live in: via the probes, satellites, telescopes, explorers, etc. The tech specs were critical additions to the course for me, as they’re not typically included in other TGC courses. It also gives you a better understanding of how knowledge and data are acquired, how technology improves over the years, and how your tax dollars are spent. In short, this was a really good concept and excellent production. Keep ‘m coming!
Date published: 2015-02-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wow. Beautiful. Informative. Interesting. The instructor is kind of wooden! But the material more than makes up for it.
Date published: 2015-02-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good update on what we know now. Great review of how theories have been supported or modified based on data generated by the latest devices available. Photos and graphics alone are worth the money. Professor Meyer does a good job of presenting the information, but a basic knowledge of the cosmos and metric system is recommended.
Date published: 2015-02-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Novice lost in space The visuals are absolutely stunning and the magnitude of space is breath taking. However, this course is NOT, as promoted, for a novice in astronomy. I understand the basic idea underlying each lecture but then he goes off into an analysis and explanation which is way beyond my accountant's brain. Unless you have a scientific background or strong base in astronomy or just like seeing incredible pictures of space, I would not recommend the course.
Date published: 2015-01-30
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