Experiencing Hubble: Understanding the Greatest Images of the Universe

Course No. 1884
Professor David M. Meyer, Ph.D.
Northwestern University
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Course No. 1884
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Examine the Hubble's design and structure, and learn how small flaws can cause big problems.
  • numbers Uncover the mysteries of fascinating nebulae, including the Cat's Eye Nebula and the Crab Nebula.
  • numbers Trace galaxies near and far, including the Sombrero Galaxy and the Antennae Galaxy.

Course Overview

A few hundred miles above Earth, there is a remarkable telescope with a crystal-clear view across the universe. For two decades, the Hubble Space Telescope has been amassing discoveries that rival those of history's greatest scientists and explorers, making it the most important and productive scientific instrument ever built.

Although it never ventures beyond low-Earth orbit, Hubble's location high above the blurring effects of the atmosphere gives it an unrivaled vantage point for investigating phenomena throughout the cosmos:

  • Comet crash: In 1994 Hubble witnessed a rare solar system cataclysm—a series of comet strikes on Jupiter, which produced Earth-sized plumes of vaporized debris in the giant planet's atmosphere.
  • Star birth: Thanks to its incomparable resolution, Hubble has brought previously hidden stellar processes to light. Perhaps its most famous image shows a dramatic hotbed of new star creation in the Eagle Nebula.
  • Warped space: Exploiting Einstein's general theory of relativity, Hubble has used the space-warping properties of giant conglomerations of matter, such as galaxy clusters, to detect dark matter and far distant galaxies.
  • Deep time: In 2003–2004 Hubble trained its instruments on a tiny, seemingly blank spot of sky for a total of 268 hours, recording thousands of distant galaxies in the deepest optical view ever made of the early universe.

These and more than half-a-million other images reveal never-before-seen features of planets, stars, and galaxies with breathtaking clarity that sets Hubble apart from all other telescopes. Now is a good time to assess Hubble's accomplishments, as it enters the third decade of its operational life, by studying a carefully chosen sample of its landmark images in a visual feast that includes many of the greatest discoveries in astronomy during the 1990s and 2000s.

Experiencing Hubble: Understanding the Greatest Images of the Universe is just such an overview, drawing on one noted astronomer's Top 10 list, including the four above, to take you on a dazzling voyage of discovery that delights the eye, feeds the imagination, and unlocks new secrets of the universe in 12 spectacularly illustrated half-hour lectures.

Your guide is Professor David M. Meyer of Northwestern University, an award-winning educator and a frequent user of the Hubble Space Telescope in his research on interstellar and extragalactic gas clouds. Professor Meyer has made Hubble images the hallmark of his popular astronomy lectures to undergraduates, amateur astronomers, and the general public, which teach fundamental concepts and recent breakthroughs through the super-sharp eye of Hubble.

For those new to astronomy, Experiencing Hubble reviews all the background needed for a well-informed tour of the otherworldly realm investigated by Hubble. And for experienced stargazers, Dr. Meyer gives a fascinating insider's perspective on the work of the superstar of telescopes.

Ten Fascinating Scientific Stories

For this course, Dr. Meyer selected 10 iconic Hubble images based on their visual beauty, scientific impact, and breadth of subject matter. Each image is the focus of its own lecture, which uses the iconic picture as a jumping-off point for exploring different aspects of the cosmos that Hubble has revealed in startling new detail. As you venture from the realm of the solar system to the farthest reaches of the universe, you get a wide-ranging education in such subjects as

  • comets and asteroids,
  • the life cycles of stars,
  • the evolution of galaxies,
  • dark matter, and
  • the evidence for the big bang.

In addition to the four images cited above, Professor Meyer's Top 10 list also shows you these:

  • Closely packed stars: Countless stars sparkle like multicolored gems toward the core of the Milky Way galaxy.
  • Dying star: An intricate pattern of debris expands outward from a sun-like star in its death throes.
  • Supernova relic: The filamentary Crab Nebula shows the remains of a titanic supernova explosion seen on Earth in the year 1054.
  • Stunning edge-on galaxy: Looking like a distant island, dark dust lanes and an eerie, central glow mark the Sombrero galaxy.
  • Cosmic distance ladder: Extreme depth-of-field in a view of galaxies near and far illustrates the cosmic distance ladder.
  • Colliding galaxies: A pair of merging galaxies reveals the likely future of our own Milky Way and the nearby Andromeda galaxy.

Professor Meyer's Top 10 list is only the beginning, since Experiencing Hubble includes hundreds of other astronomical photos, historical images, diagrams, and animations that take you deep into the fascinating scientific stories behind each of his iconic pictures. Dr. Meyer also talks about his own experiences on the world's biggest telescopes, including Hubble, giving a glimpse of the wonder that inspires all astronomers and their ongoing excitement at the flood of data from Hubble. With this remarkable instrument, it is as if a picture window on the cosmos has been wiped clean for the first time, presenting a glorious view to all eternity.

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12 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Rationale for a Space Telescope
    Begin your exploration of the scientific stories behind 10 of the most fascinating images made by the Hubble Space Telescope. In this lecture, learn about Hubble's design and how its operations were almost cut short by a flaw in its mirror, a problem corrected during a space shuttle servicing mission. x
  • 2
    Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 and Jupiter
    Shortly after its optics were repaired, Hubble had the opportunity to observe the solar system event of the century: the collision of a string of comets with Jupiter in 1994. Examine Hubble's stunning image of the aftermath of this crash. x
  • 3
    The Sagittarius Star Cloud
    Hubble's view of a tiny region of the Sagittarius Star Cloud has an astonishing 12,000 stars. Study this dazzling image and learn how its unprecedented resolution is helping to chart the stellar history and evolution of the Milky Way galaxy. x
  • 4
    The Star Factory inside the Eagle Nebula
    Explore the most iconic Hubble photo of all: the glowing pillars of gas and dust at the core of the Eagle Nebula. Resembling a fantasy landscape, this view shows young stars emerging from their cocoons of gas and dust in an interstellar molecular cloud. x
  • 5
    The Cat's Eye Nebula—A Stellar Demise
    Turning from star birth to star death, get a preview of the sun's distant future by examining the Cat's Eye Nebulae. Such planetary nebulae (which have nothing to do with planets) are the exposed debris of dying stars and are among the most beautiful objects in the Hubble gallery. x
  • 6
    The Crab Nebula—A Supernova's Aftermath
    Stars more than eight times as massive as the sun take a radically different path at the end of their lives, disintegrating in a colossal explosion known as a supernova. Hubble's image of the famous Crab Nebula shows the expanding cloud of material from a supernova that was witnessed on Earth in the year 1054. x
  • 7
    The Sombrero Galaxy—An Island Universe
    In the 1920s, astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered the true nature of galaxies as "island universes." Some 80 years later, the telescope named in his honor has made thousands of breathtaking pictures of galaxies. Focus on one in particular—an edge-on view of the striking Sombrero galaxy. x
  • 8
    Hubble's View of Galaxies Near and Far
    Hubble's image of the nearby galaxy NGC 3370 includes many faint galaxies in the background, exemplifying the telescope's mission to establish an accurate distance scale to galaxies near and far—along with the related expansion rate of the universe. Discover how Hubble's success has led to the concept of dark energy. x
  • 9
    The Antennae Galaxies—A Cosmic Collision
    A pair of interacting galaxies called the Antennae represent Hubble's most dramatic snapshot of a galactic collision. Learn how such events unfold over the course of millions of years and how the nearby Andromeda galaxy will have a similar encounter with our own Milky Way in the far distant future. x
  • 10
    Abell 2218—A Massive Gravitational Lens
    One of the consequences of Einstein's general theory of relativity is evident in Hubble's picture of the galaxy cluster Abell 2218. Investigate the physics of this phenomenon, called gravitational lensing, and discover how Hubble has used it to study extremely distant galaxies as well as dark matter. x
  • 11
    The Hubble Ultra Deep Field
    Completing your tour of 10 remarkable Hubble images, plunge into the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, the deepest optical image of the cosmos made to date. This extraordinary view shows 10,000 galaxies extending far beyond the Milky Way and back to the epoch of galaxy formation. x
  • 12
    Hubble's Legacy and Beyond
    Finish the course by looking at the future of Hubble and the next generation of space telescopes. Focus in particular on the search for extrasolar planets, how they are found, and the role Hubble and other telescopes play in extending our knowledge of possibly earthlike worlds. x

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Video DVD
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  • Download 12 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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DVD Includes:
  • 12 lectures on 2 DVDs
  • 72-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 72-page course synopsis
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • 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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Experiencing Hubble: Understanding the Greatest Images of the Universe is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 228.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great explanations to gorgeous pictures Professor Meyer gives fascinating, semi-folksy explanations to the beautiful, out-of-this-world photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope. He is probably the most qualified person to do so.
Date published: 2019-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It's Great Even if You Know a Lot I have read many books on Astronomy and was a bit cautious about getting this set because I thought that it might disappoint me. It didn't and I learned many new things that Prof. Meyer discussed. He did speak rather fast, so if you are not familiar with the subject it could be a bit overwhelming. I was able to keep up with the lecture pace and enjoyed the first disc (I am now watching the second one). It is a great value for the price and I will view it several more times. I like that you can select which topic you want to view and don't have to go in order. The various commands are intuitive and easy to comprehend. The only "criticism" I could find, and it was a minor one, was the professor's frequent use of the "um" tic. I kind of enjoyed it after a while. I will not have reluctance to try another subject.
Date published: 2019-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Survey of Astronomy Via Hubble Images The Hubble images you get to see in this course are amazing. It's hard to believe they're real. But what really makes this course work is Dr. Meyer's organization of the material. He presents fascinating images with a story behind them. And his presentation really makes the subject matter come alive. You get to learn about a number of really interesting things: birth and death of stars, what's out there beyond our solar system, what huge nebulae and dust clouds really consist of and the role they play in the evolution of the universe, etc. My wife and I learned a lot about cosmology and observational astronomy and enjoyed every moment.
Date published: 2019-03-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not for the Novice This was my very 1st purchase from GC and it delivered on the subject matter but it was too deep for what I was hoping for as a curious individual who was wanting an entry level exposure to space with explanations of the wonderful images from the Hubble. This series is a 2nd or 3rd level discourse that will leave you in the dust unless you have a science background. The instructor is highly qualified and certainly knows his subject and the various discussions are broad and interesting; just too technical for me. Great Courses would be better off either repackaging this for more general audience market or offering different levels of lectures to satisfy the consumer/student.
Date published: 2019-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am thrilled to have this course and am learning so much about the universe and am fascinated with the capability of the Hubble to have produced great images in addition to Dr. Meyer lecturing. He speaks in simple terms to where I can understand, being that I am an average person and not above me. I admire Dr. Meyer as he is a brilliant man, is so knowledgeable and an excellent speaker.
Date published: 2019-02-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just what I wanted As the title and description of the course say, this provides stunning images from Hubble and the instructor provides easy to understand explanations about what the images represent and what they have revealed to scientists. The instructor does very well at balancing the majesty and beauty of the images with just enough theory and detail to help appreciate them even more. I'm very pleased that I purchased this course and spent the time to watch it. I expect to watch it several more times over my life.
Date published: 2019-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great images and insight into astronomy The images are spectacular and professor Meyer's use of the photos to explain elements of the universe is both fascinating and entertaining. Great course worth getting for the images alone.
Date published: 2019-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great treatment of this key device This course does an outstanding job of summarizing the fantastic contributions of the Hubble to understanding the universe. The lecture provides great insight into the workings and accomplishment of the telescope. This type course also adds to an understanding of the contributions and usefullness so such scientific tools, even at their costs.
Date published: 2018-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Experiencing Hubble, what more can you ask for.. This is my second copy of Experiencing Hubble. I loaned my first copy out and never got it back. This is a program I can watch with my grandson and see the awe in his eyes. Watch the program, then go outside at night and look at the stars. He gets the connection. What more can you ask.
Date published: 2018-11-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent series Both esthetically exquisite and intellectually expansive. The lectures are understandable even for novices like myself, yet push my knowledge to new limits each time. Unfortunately the delivery is sometimes too fast for me to follow in one viewing. But I look forward to seeing the DVDs more than once. Thank you!
Date published: 2018-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved this course! I have to admit, when it comes to astronomy, my interest in the beauty of the pictures from the universe far outweigh the scientific theories about those pictures. So from that perspective, this course provides some extraordinary beautiful pictures, and I couldn’t be happier except to ask for more lectures. I am sure since this course is several years old now, some of the theories presented might be outdated as science has moved forward. And since the course covers a broad range of topics in 12 lessons, all of the details of competing theories and other details are omitted. There are so many other courses and documentaries on the universe that it is not too hard to keep up with what is happening in this area. The professor does a great job of engaging me throughout the course and was very easy to follow.
Date published: 2018-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Experiencing Hubble: Understanding the Greatest... The presence of the Smithsonian enhances the video presentation of this course. The wealth of images is truly mind-boggling. Dr. Meyer is clearly expert in the subject. Bravo!
Date published: 2018-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Photos That Have Amazed Us I've seen these incredible and beautiful photographs of some features of our universe, and they have taken my breath away. Now, with this series of lectures, I have learned what the photos are telling us about the history and future of our universe.
Date published: 2018-07-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible presentation. Experiencing Hubble was a great learning experience both times I watched it. David M. Meyer presented everything with such ex pert precision. I am currently watching "Understanding the Human Body," presented by Dr. Anthony A. Goodman that a friend gave me. The Great Courses are indeed GREAT COURSES. Thank you!
Date published: 2018-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful and entertaining course This is my 1st course with Great Courses and it was a wonderful experience. Professor Meyer is passionate and that alone makes the course exciting. He was able to explain very complicated concepts in such a way that you could follow most of the science. I have a deeper appreciation for the field of Astronomy and Physics and find myself wanting to know more! I look up at the night sky now with a new perspective! I look forward to learning more from Great Courses.
Date published: 2018-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Universe as a System One of my interests is the fundamental structure of systems in a General Systems context. I hypozise that every system of practical interest has an internal structure of interacting entities, and that each such system is itself a component of a structure of higher-level systems. Our If so our universe must be near the upper bound of such a stack. (There might have been more than one [big or small] bang.) I have seen many Hubble ST pictures, but have never fully understood their significance. Meyer's explanation of those images was close to an epiphany of the evidence we have of how things work in a 13.7 billion year timeframe. I especially appreciated the lack of hyperbole. Very well done. As a complete aside, he showed a picture of Hubble at a conference at Northwestern in the 10290s. Although he didn't mention it, I was impressed with the number of women in the top league of astronomy in that era.
Date published: 2018-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So, that is what I am seeing! I almost passed up on this when I saw it in the catalogue, thinking: 'yeah, yeah, Hubble Space Telescope, seen all that all over the web ...' But it is quite a different matter to see the image and hear a scientific explanation of what the features that you are seeing actually indicate. Gives me a more comprehensive appreciation for the value of the Hubble Space Telescope, and leaves me in anticipation for the James Webb telescope that is supposed to launch sometime next year!
Date published: 2018-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun course This was my first Great Corse and really enjoyed it. The lecturer presented his top 10 and through those images he was able to both explain the image, the science behind it and the us of Hubble to obtain it. Very informative and left wanting to know more about the subject. To me that is a sign of a great learning experience
Date published: 2018-05-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very informative but I had trouble reading disc 1 with 2 computers although it looked undamaged.
Date published: 2018-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Course! Very informative on a subject of great interest to me. Great examples, photos, charts and use of effective visuals. Just love this course! Thank you! Thank you!
Date published: 2018-04-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from I asked you to remove me from your email list, however, you have not. Please do so. Tell the narrator to hold his hands still every now and then.
Date published: 2018-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Straight-Forward, Direct Presentation Both of Dr. Meyer's courses are a very, very good. The content is solid and the presentation is clear and without ornament. Some lecturers insert too much of themselves, but this man is far more interested in the material and its clear communication than he is in himself. A first-class course.
Date published: 2018-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great gift for a friend. My friend called me to say what a GREAT x3 Birthday gift this was!! He was really excited about the amazing images and everything else about this course. I'm so glad I got the mailer about the Great Courses. I really was stumped about what to get him and then I saw the course about The Hubble and knew it was perfect.
Date published: 2017-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative, and breathtakingly beautiful I watched the DVD version of Professor David Meyer’s course “Experiencing Hubble: Understanding the Greatest Images of the Universe”. It was doubly enjoyable because it presented scientific knowledge along with breathtakingly beautiful images. The course was very captivating on many levels. Professor Meyer used extraordinary visual images from the Hubble Space Telescope -- accompanied by charts, graphs, and animation where helpful -- to explain technically challenging concepts in an approachable and interesting manner. I just added another course by Professor Meyer to my wish list (“A Visual Guide to the Universe with the Smithsonian”), but I really enjoyed the intergalactic / cosmological material covered in “Experiencing Hubble”. How fortunate for Professor Meyer to have had the opportunity to have pursued such a fantastic area of study! The guidebook that comes with the course is also very good. Professor Meyer’s “Experiencing Hubble” course is endlessly fascinating, a real visual and intellectual treat, and I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2017-09-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great pictures & explanations Great Courses # 1884 Experiencing Hubble by David Meyer 5 star ! shows many spectacular images from the Hubble, but with very interesting commentaries. Explains what we are seeing & the scientific results & why it is important. He is an active participant in using the Hubble, so gives 1st hand accounts of events like the complications of scheduling who gets when & how much viewing time, etc. Course made in 2011, he states that when the Webb new telescope “will be sent up in 2014” – now September 2017 & still not yet sent up. Many new discoveries since 2011. Good presenter, is articulate, clear easy to hear speaking, good graphics. Only minus is the very small guidebook could use some of the charts shown.
Date published: 2017-09-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Unbelievable pictures There is a whole new world out there. If it's been more than 10 years since you studied our solar system, this is a must. I was so impressed and moved after watching, I gave my copy to the local library. For all to experience.
Date published: 2017-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Would make a great gift Dr. Meyer’s gentle enthusiasm is infectious. He has chosen key images in order to educate his audience on important themes in astronomy, cosmology and a bit of astrophysics. In my view these lectures would make a great gift to excite your friend or teen about astronomy. A lovely set of educational set pieces disguised nicely as fun thanks to Dr. Meyer’s style. Not a criticism, given what he is trying to accomplish but be aware that these lectures do not spend time on the sensors, design and operation of the Hubble which would have been nice. The series does make one reflect a bit on what the recent history of miss-management NASA as one effect of which will be the loss of Hubble in the near future.
Date published: 2017-07-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Needs updating Good for what it is - and the discount price - but six years out of date - Hubble has done very much more since 2011 - completely new images, insights and ground-breaking science
Date published: 2017-06-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Hubble science The instructor Mr. David Meyer is a fabulous teacher. I had no idea this course was going to get so deep in cosmology and the science of neutron matter ,cepheid variables, Doppler effect, and the theory of relativity pertaining to the Einstein ring. To tell you the truth I was totally lost by the fourth lecture and I listened politely until the course ended. The telescope is probably one of the greatest inventions of my lifetime and that's what I'm taking away from this. The photos are fabulous, but can all be seen on Nasa's website and the Hubble site.
Date published: 2017-05-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I am not very computer literate, so my problem is most likely my ignorance. I can not find the information that you sen to me.
Date published: 2017-05-27
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