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?

  • Examine the Hubble's design and structure, and learn how small flaws can cause big problems.
  • Uncover the mysteries of fascinating nebulae, including the Cat's Eye Nebula and the Crab Nebula.
  • 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
Instant Video Includes:
  • 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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Reviews

Experiencing Hubble: Understanding the Greatest Images of the Universe is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 220.
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too Detailed I bought the course expecting a lot of images with short explanations The images that were shown were spectacular. Just too much theory. I am not an astronomer and much of it was way over my head. The instructor knew what he was talking about and had a passion for the subject. I wanted more images less science. Then I get to the end and find the course was created prior to 2009. So for me it was not what I expected. From the reviews I am in the minority.
Date published: 2019-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Intro to The Hubble Space Telescope This was the first course I bought from The Great Courses and I really love this course! Dr. Meyer did a fantastic job with his presentation and his enthusiasm for The Hubble Space Telescope shone through in every lecture. He was able to clearly present a logical progression of lectures that explained The HST from its beginning to its maximum capabilities. I highly recommend this course and a good study of the course guidebook as well for all the books listed as recommended reading. I was led to many wonderful books that I was able find for bargain prices that further enhanced my enjoyment of this course.
Date published: 2019-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great overview! This course was a wonderful overview of the history of the Universe, complete with great images from the Hubble space telescope. It inspired me to sign up for a longer, more detailed exploration through the course "Cosmology: The History and Nature of Our Universe"
Date published: 2019-04-15
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
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