Our Night Sky

Rated 5 out of 5 by from FOR BACKYARD ASTRONOMERS I bought a nice backyard telescope a few years ago and almost never used it. After taking this course it has motivated me study more on this topic and finally use my telescope!
Date published: 2020-09-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Informative Instructor very well spoken and knowledgeable. Starting using info as soon as it got to the point where planets are identifiable.
Date published: 2020-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course even for a seasoned observer. I've been observing the sky for many decades with a variety of telescopes. I wholeheartedly enjoyed this course and I even learned a good bit of history from it. Practical, expertly presented and geared toward amateur observers. The instructor speaks quickly and covers a lot of material so I did have to stop and rewind quite a bit to get the most from the course; that criticism is trivial. The material is lasting and should never be "out of date". A hands on practical treatment of the subject that compliments the theoretical courses offered here. A true 5 star treatment of the subject. Michael G. / South Carolina.
Date published: 2020-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Our Night Sky I am enjoying this course very much. It moves quickly and provides useful information. The presenter is clear and concise. The graphics are well done. It's fun for an aspiring sky watcher!
Date published: 2020-08-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lot of good information Too much information, too fast. Speed 0.5 is too slow, doesn't sound good and 1.0 is too fast. Consider 0.75
Date published: 2020-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Introduction to the Night Sky I thoroughly enjoyed this course. I thought the presentation was excellent. Each 30+ minute lecture is filled with interesting information and gradually makes you feel more at home looking up into the night sky. It's a lot to take in, but it is really worthwhile as he explains the night sky with an impressive depth of knowledge and passion for his subject. I would highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2020-07-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good astronomy course, but a little heavy on the myths.
Date published: 2020-05-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stargazing for Beginners and Everybody Else Too Double stars. Star clusters. Nebulae. Variable stars. Blue stars. Red stars. Giant stars. Dwarf stars. Rocky planets. Gas giants. Moon craters and moon mountains. This course helps you find all these and more. Professor Murphy starts with the Moon, then the solar system, and works outward to the constellations, deep-sky objects, and galaxies outside our own. Once the basics are covered, he takes the seasons and hemispheres in turn. What can you see in the summer sky? The winter sky? And so on. The course is well-structured from start to finish. Contrary to some negative reviews, I cannot agree that he speaks too fast or is disorganized. On the contrary, I find his presentations very well ordered and the entire course scrupulously structured. For me, the strength of this course is that Murphy pitches it to anyone who is interested in the night sky. He makes it equally accessible to people with telescopes, people with binoculars, and people who are stargazing with just the naked eye. He does not talk down, and does not assume the viewer has a background in astronomy. Etymologies, tales of discovery and mythologies of various peoples associated with different constellations add interest along the way. If you are fortunate enough to see the night sky where you live, or can get somewhere you can, and if you have any interest in astronomy at all, this course is an excellent place to start. Murphy provides not only
Date published: 2020-05-24
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Our Night Sky
Course Trailer
The Constellations and Their Stars
1: The Constellations and Their Stars

Begin your study of the night sky by investigating the origin of the constellations-the traditional groupings of stars that mostly date to antiquity. The well-known constellation Orion illustrates the fascinating mix of beauty, mythology, and scientific knowledge to be found wherever you look in the heavens....

34 min
Seeing and Navigating the Sky
2: Seeing and Navigating the Sky

The naked eye is a powerful instrument-if you know how to use it. Learn the best times and conditions for observing, how to identify the positions and magnitudes of stars and planets, how the sky changes over the course of a night, how to use astronomical maps such as a planisphere, and more....

34 min
Using Binoculars and Backyard Telescopes
3: Using Binoculars and Backyard Telescopes

There are many choices when selecting binoculars or a telescope. Learn what to look for in light-gathering power, optical design, magnification, mounts, and other features. Professor Murphy also suggests several tips for getting the best observing experience out of your equipment....

30 min
Observing the Moon and the Sun
4: Observing the Moon and the Sun

Charting the motions and changes of the sun and moon may be humankind's oldest astronomical activity. Discover how both objects offer rich opportunities for study. Also learn the precautions to take when observing the sun, which is the only star that can be seen up close and in detail....

33 min
Observing the Planets with a Telescope
5: Observing the Planets with a Telescope

The rings of Saturn, the bands of Jupiter, the phases of Venus, the polar caps of Mars-these and other planetary features are visible through a small telescope. Learn when viewing opportunities arise for each of the planets and what sights await the dedicated observer....

34 min
Meteor Showers, Comets, Eclipses, and More
6: Meteor Showers, Comets, Eclipses, and More

Explore a variety of special phenomena that are among the wonders of the sky. Some, like bright meteors, aurora, and many comets, are largely unpredictable. Others, like eclipses and annual meteor showers, occur at well-known times-although it may require a special trip to see them....

33 min
The Northern Sky and the North Celestial Pole
7: The Northern Sky and the North Celestial Pole

Embarking on the second half of the course in which you systematically tour the entire sky, study two constellations that are continuously in view from the Northern Hemisphere: Ursa Major and Cassiopeia. Also explore the slowly shifting position of true north in the sky....

32 min
The Fall Sky
8: The Fall Sky

Navigate your way around the autumn sky from the Northern Hemisphere, discovering how the classical myth of Andromeda ties together the stories of the nearby constellations of Cassiopeia, Perseus, Cepheus, Pegasus, and Cetus. The sights include the Andromeda galaxy, the nearest large galaxy to our own....

31 min
The Winter Sky
9: The Winter Sky

Continuing your focus on the constellations of the Northern Hemisphere, survey the magnificent winter sky, dominated by Orion. "Star hop" around the region, which includes a wealth of interesting stars, globular clusters, nebulae, and other features, especially the Orion Nebula-the finest nebula in the northern sky-and the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters in Taurus....

33 min
The Spring Sky
10: The Spring Sky

The spring sky opens the view into intergalactic space perpendicular to the plane of the Milky Way. Among the objects visible are the immensely rich galaxy clusters in Virgo and Coma Berenices, which are many millions of light-years distant and can be seen with small and moderate telescopes....

31 min
The Summer Sky
11: The Summer Sky

Arching high overhead in the summer sky is the Milky Way, which is the plane of our galaxy seen from the inside. Tour this densely packed region of stars of all types, from dusty regions of star birth to the exquisite shells of dying stars. Here, a useful orienting feature is the Summer Triangle....

31 min
The Southern Sky and the Milky Way
12: The Southern Sky and the Milky Way

In this final lecture, travel to the Southern Hemisphere for sky views inaccessible from northern latitudes. Discover the famous Southern Cross, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, and a spectacular panorama of the Milky Way-along with new myths and stories that add a human dimension to our marvelous night sky....

32 min
Edward M. Murphy

My goal is to introduce you to the beauty and the wonder of the night sky, and to give you a basic knowledge needed to feel more comfortable navigating the sky.


University of Virginia


University of Virginia

About Edward M. Murphy

Dr. Edward M. Murphy is Associate Professor, General Faculty at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He earned his bachelor's degree in Astronomy from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Virginia in 1996. Professor Murphy was a postdoctoral fellow and an associate research scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he worked on NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE). In 2000 he joined the faculty at the University of Virginia, where he continues to use FUSE, along with radio telescopes, in his research on the interstellar medium. Professor Murphy teaches courses on introductory astronomy and intelligent life in the universe to undergraduates, as well as seminars on how to teach astronomy to graduate students. He also offers evening classes for the local community at the historical Leander McCormick Observatory. He was named a Teaching and Technology Fellow in 2002-2003 and an Ernest Boots Mead Honored Faculty Fellow in 2003-2004. Dr. Murphy gives astronomy talks, appears regularly on local radio, and leads professional development workshops for teachers. He has also worked with the Science Museum of Virginia to develop planetarium shows and exhibits.

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