A Visual Guide to the Universe with the Smithsonian

In partnership with
Professor David M. Meyer, Ph.D.
Northwestern University
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92% 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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  • 146-page course synopsis
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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 79.
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
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gave this course to my 94 yr old father. Loves it! Top-notch astronomy course. My father loves the subject matter and he is quite well-educated. He says this course is excellent.
Date published: 2015-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent for an enthusiastic amateur I bought this course for an elderly friend who wanted to further his study of astronomy as a follow-on to Alex Filippenko's 96 session course which he thought was positively marvelous. My friend is more interested in seeing the images of the solar system than in the technology that produces those images and more interested in awe-inspiring facts about the universe than in science or mathematics per se. He is thrilled with this series! Both Professors Filippenko and Meyer have re-ignited his boyhood love of the heavens. He has commented particularly about the beauty and amazing quality of the images in this series. He told me, "Professor Meyer has a low-key delivery, but a high-caliber mind. The images of the stars and planets have me jumping out of my seat!" No doubt about it--this was a fabulous purchase for him.
Date published: 2015-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course Dr. Meyer is an excellent speaker, his presentations are very clear. The photos are amazing! The only problem with the course was that it was too short, it left you wanting more! I highly recommend this course to anyone with an interest in astronomy.
Date published: 2015-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Reality Internalized I am a 76 year old physician scientist. This course allowed me to see the reality of what is known mass and energy. Space, time, eternity, infinity, mass and energy are all presented as the solar system, galaxy and all of the enormous visualization of what is "out there" is brought to our understanding. Interestingly, this experience has expanded my ability to pray and meditate! I have a better appreciation of the Power of the mighty hand of our creator and to visualize creation. A very beautiful and enjoyable presentation.
Date published: 2015-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent David Meyer is an excellent speaker and instructor. He keeps the course content challenging but not overwhelming.
Date published: 2015-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course I found the course excellent. The professor explained logically and in fair detail what every selected picture was about and how it was obtained, in easy terms. My only quibble might be the images he did not select - but then there are so many that is rather unrealistic. Great course. Try it.
Date published: 2015-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the Best!! After seeing and loving the "10 Greatest Hubble Images" course, we found this new one. It's even better, if that is possible. I hope they make a sequel...
Date published: 2015-01-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting, but I enjoyed this course for myself because I have a strong background in the field. However, I showed it to a general group of friends who do not have any technical background, and they found the course to be well "above their heads." They enjoyed many of the images, but the technical details, e.g. about some of the spacecraft and telescopes, the H-R diagram, etc., left them behind. the number of people who showed up for the showings dwindled so the I have stopped showing the series - and will start another of a more general topic, such as Great Tours: Greece and Turkey.
Date published: 2015-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good course to learn astronomy I love astronomy and I enjoyed this course a lot. The professor is easy to understand and explains things in detail for lay audience. Teaching Company did a superb job in producing stunningly beautiful images and video clips. The only negative thing about this course is, in lecture 17, the professor said 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs became extinct..... But available evidence show that human beings and dinosaurs existed together. Some dinosaur fossils discovered in Ohio showed hematopoietic tissue. Obviously these bones could not have been formed 65 million years ago. Also the decay of earth's magnetic field show that earth is only 6000-10,000 years old. For example earth's magnetic field had decreased exponentially by about 7% since 1829. Such a rapid decay could not have been going on continuously for millions of years, because the filed would have to have been impossibly strong in the past in order for it to still exist today. And the field could not be more than about 10,000 years old. Except for this, I liked this course a lot.
Date published: 2015-01-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Visual Guide to the Universe This course was very beneficial for my knowledge level - something that I'll watch a few more time and still get a lot out of. The course was organized in such a way that it continued to build on previous lectures. The pictures helped to give understanding to the subject being presented. There were a few slides that were presented and Professor Meyer would be talking about a formation or cluster and I was left wondering which formation he was making reference to. Overall, a well done course..
Date published: 2014-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another 5 Star Course from Professor Meyer and TTC Outstanding in every respect, this course builds nicely on Professor Meyer's previous course on Hubble images by examining images of the universe taken by many different telescopes, including Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra, Kepler, and others-including some ground-based telescopes. Professor Meyer clearly explains both the science behind the images as well as what the images tell us, without shortchanging the sheer beauty of the images before us. If you enjoyed the professor's previous course on Hubble images, you will love this one as well. If you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for? Get them both and tour the cosmos with an amiable and knowledgeable tour guide.
Date published: 2014-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely " THE " Best Course ! I have taken many of the Great Courses on CD and DVD over several years. This course is the best ever. I have studied Astronomy for many years but I learned so much. The Professor, the Animation, the Subjects, all great. Bravo !
Date published: 2014-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Addition to Understanding the Universe A Visual Guide to the Universe is the latest in an outstanding series of visual lectures on the evolution of the universe. Each of these eighteen lectures with excellent graphics describe a particular astronomical event in that the events are not sequential. Professor Meyer explains the evolution and cause of each event in a knowledgeable and understandable way. These lectures with graphics examine some of the most fascinating aspects of the universe. However, if one is new to understanding the mysteries of the university Alex Filippenko’s outstanding lectures in ‘Understanding the Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy’ followed by Mark Whittle’s Cosmology: The History and Nature of Our Universe’ are excellent series offered in The Great Courses. While less scintillating Stuart Sutherland’s ‘ A new History of Life’ provides insight into the evolution life on earth. Many of these lectures I have watched more than once.
Date published: 2014-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Visual guide to the Universe I find the topic and presentation slide fasinating and almost beyond imagination. It seems impossible to visualize a light year let alone millions and billions of light years. I find that all I can see is amazing colors and shapes and I also wonder what is beyond or within those shapes. It is also hard to grasp that what I am seeing occurred millions and billions of years ago so that brings the questions, "What is is like now?" I also found that the more I see the more I want to see and to that end, I will continue to purchase courses like this one. Great job. Doug
Date published: 2014-12-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wonderful Visuals; Wished for More Science It seems almost presumptuous to say what must be said - the universe is an astonishing and wonderful place, and the images we humans have managed to obtain of it are extraordinary and literally awesome. This is, of course, the reason to take this course, and I unreservedly recommend doing so, for everyone, everywhere. And Professor Meyer is excellent - organized, knowledgeable, an enthusiastic and lucid speaker who clearly cares deeply about his subject, a pleasure to listen to. I was a bit disappointed only by the superficiality of the science that was presented along with the images. I understand that many will buy this course just to look at the photos, but I wish that for those interested there were more in-depth explanations. (There are other Great Courses that cover this, but they are in need of updates, which I hope will come soon.) Instead, there was, imho, an overemphasis on relative trivia, such as the specific wavelengths of the images, and the dimensions of satellites and telescope mirrors. Also, it was sometimes not clear if an image was a photo or an artists' conception. The Course Guidebook is very good, but - as seems to be company policy recently - there is no glossary, which I would have considered essential for a science course, TGC people - bring back our glossaries! So - very highly recommended for all with any interest in the rest of the universe outside our little home. Ideally, would be combined with one or more of the excellent astrophysics / cosmology courses. Enjoy.
Date published: 2014-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Visually Stunning I thought the Great Course offering Experiencing Hubble was superior viewing, but this Visual Guide to the Universe is even better. It takes the pictures shown in the Hubble course and doubles down with shots from other land-based and orbiting telescopes such as the Compton, Chandra, and Spitzer units that show the heavens not only in our optical lighting but in the infrared, gamma ray, and x-ray spectrums. It covers a wider range of astronomical phenomena from our sun and its planets to galaxies billions of light years away. My only qualm with this course is the professor. I'm probably splitting hairs here, but Dr. Meyer's delivery could have been a little more animated....sometimes he looked and acted like a stick figure during his lectures. That said, there is no doubting his knowledge and expertise in the subject matter. It's not often I watch a GC a second time immediately after a first viewing, but this I did with this one. The visuals are both captivating and compelling. This is a science course that everyone, no matter what their personal disciplines or academic areas of interest are, can enjoy and learn from. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2014-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Great Courses lecture series. Anyone interested in learning about astronomy, be they well versed in the subject or just testing the waters, should thoroughly enjoy this course. It was a joy to see some of the most recent photos of our solar system and beyond as taken by Hubble and other similar craft. The professor was excellent and provided a great deal of background information as he presented the many photos in this course. Having taken several other more comprehensive Great Courses offerings in this area like Whittle's "Cosmology" and Filippenko's "Understanding the Universe", I hated to see these lectures come to an end so quickly and was left craving much more. I have taken 50 of the Great Course offerings over the years, and I continue to be impressed with the quality of the professors, the broad range of subjects, and the increasing improvement of the course production. This is just the latest of their fascinating and instructive offerings and I strongly recommend it.
Date published: 2014-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You can make a tour in the space When you see the images of this course you fill you are going in a trip yourself in the space. Its a wonderful experience.
Date published: 2014-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So Involving This has been complicated and overreaches my education level Medicine 1964, but how very stimulating and involving. I am so very happy that I have it.
Date published: 2014-11-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Visually exciting course Visually wonderful, from a person who knows what he talks about. For me, although I've had a fairly thorough science background, it was a little too complicated and I got lost a couple times. But even with that I was very pleased that I had purchased it and will look at it again.
Date published: 2014-11-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Amazing universe Entertaining and well presented. Sometimes goes off in a technical bent that stops the less knowledgeable from following but over all highly interesting and informative. One can not watch without a sense of awe over how and where we exist.
Date published: 2014-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A superlative communicator DVD and Visual download Let's use an analogy. Criminology is a large subject with different possible approaches. One way would be from macro concepts to individual cases. Start with the legal, sociological, psychological and economic factors at play. Then move on to Jane Doe's murder. Another way would go in reverse. Accompany a detective to Jane's place. Notice the objects and people that make up her world. Her likely income. Her body marks and signs of struggle. Pay attention to the point of entry and likely cause of death, etc., etc. Dr Filippenko's UNDERSTANDING THE UNIVERSE presents astronomy from the first perspective: general to specific. His course is excellent, but requires 96 lectures. Dr Meyer's EXPERIENCING HUBBLE and A VISUAL GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE are much shorter and closer to the second path. Picture are offered with a concise commentary. These images might lull you to sit back and enjoy the ride. But watch out! Information is highly compressed with plenty of references to earlier photos and lectures. You have to remain alert. ________________ Of the two, HUBBLE is the most tightly structured. And if I could only chose one of Meyer's courses, HUBBLE would be it. Its central theme is stellar evolution within a broader environment of stellar dust. VISUAL GUIDE is really two courses in one: 1. our solar system with possible life habitats, and 2. the much wider galactic and inter-galactic environment. The word "visual" in this second part is a bit ironic, because his central theme is how much information is only available from wavelengths lying outside our narrow visual limits. And the only way to capture these unusual images is through robotic satellites and probes managed by specialized teams on earth. There is some overlap between the two, especially when VISUAL explores certain stars and their surrounding nebula in lectures 8-10, but overall HUBBLE and VISUAL are very complementary. _________________ Presentation is really outstanding. Meyer is a superlative communicator when used in voice-over with his fascinating image collection. Both courses are effective introductions to astronomy if you are pressed for time. They should also satisfy motivated teen viewers. The HUBBLE guidebook is skimpy, but has a glossary. VISUAL's guidebook lacks one and yet is twice as long. Strongly recommended for the motivated.
Date published: 2014-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from View this on a Big Screen Wow! This is the word that describes this course. When you view this course…put it on the big screen. The images are truly breath-taking. I also own both Filippenko’s 96 lecture course Understanding the Universe and Whittle’s 36 lecture course on Cosmology. These are the classics of the Astronomy courses. I have no regrets adding this one to my collection. I also own many TV documentaries on Blu Ray. Though I love them all I prefer the Teaching Company courses by far. The pictures alone is all worth it. Each lecture has stunning animations. Moreover he is able to teach in an understandable manner yet hitting you with heaps of information. In addition there is no complicated math. He is truly an authority on the subject. If you enjoy Experiencing Hubble by Professor Meyers then you would love this course. I feel this course complements, not overlap, the other Astronomy courses. As usual this course is truly for everyone. The images alone attracted the attention of my six-year-old grandson. He strolled over to my couch and eventually he begun to ask some questions. He asked how long it would take to travel to the Andromeda galaxy and why are galaxies shaped like a “pizza.” I avoided the terms “million” or “billion” and more so with “light-year.” I soon learned that in trying to simplify the concepts of space and time I was confronted with Carl Sagan’s famous quote “the size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding.” The lesson to take home is that it raised questions. If this course can create wonder in a child then this course can do the same for you. This course is a must-have.
Date published: 2014-11-02
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