Astrophysics for beginners - an online course

Want to know your black holes from your Big Bang? Learn the basics of astrophysics with an award-winning astronomy author & experienced tutor

Your jargon and maths free introduction to astrophysics

Next course: 14 June – 19 July

 (Tuesdays 19:00 – 21:00 BST)

This six week online beginners course is the perfect way to discover the wonders of our universe and all the mysteries we’re yet to unravel. All explained in simple, everyday language with no maths or complex jargon.

You’ll start close to home and venture ever further out until you reach the very edge of the observable universe. Your journey will take in black holes, dark matter, alien planets, other universes and more.

Can’t make all the sessions? All classes are recorded and the recordings are available to watch indefinitely afterwards

What have previous students said?

"Totally engrossing"

"You certainly have a knack of explaining really complex things in an accessible and understandable way!"

"This course has been really well thought out and crystal clear. It’s a truly exhilarating series of classes!"

"We were surprised that, with so little knowledge of astrophysics, we were able to grasp the concepts that Colin was explaining to us"

"Colin is an amazing teacher - fabulous visual aids and he explains everything so clearly"

What will I learn?

The Sun - part of Astrophysics for Beginners online course

Week 1 – The Inner Solar System

Key topic: solar physics and planetary science

Exploring the Sun and the four planets that orbit closest to it. Also a chance to examine our own Moon and the two moons of Mars, as well as journeying through the asteroid belt.

[image: a coronal mass ejection from the Sun (NASA/SDO)

Pluto - part of Astrophysics for Beginners online course
Week 2 – The Outer Solar System

Key topic: solar system formation

A tour of the realm of the gas giants and their moons, and a look at the demotion of Pluto to one of five dwarf planets. Plus a trip to the comets of the Oort cloud and the debate over where our solar system came from and where it ends.

[image: Pluto as seen by NASA’s New Horizons probe)

The Crab Nebula - part of Astrophysics for Beginners online course
Week 3 – Our Local Galactic Neighbourhood

Key topics: exoplanets & life cycle of stars

Explore the night sky, tour the nearest star factory to Earth and learn about cataclysmic supernovas. Plus discover the thousands of planets beyond our solar system and whether any of them could be home to life.

[image: the Crab Nebula as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope]

The Milky Way - part of Astrophysics for Beginners online course
Week 4 – The Milky Way

Key topics: black holes, dark matter & SETI

How big is our city of stars? How many inhabitants does it have? We’ll investigate the Milky Way’s size, age and shape as well as the super-massive black hole that lurks at its heart. There is also chance to discuss the dark matter that continues to puzzle astronomers.

[image: artist’s impression of the Milky Way – NASA]

Colliding galaxies - part of Astrophysics for Beginners online course

Week 5 – The Local Group 

Key topic: measuring cosmic distances

Our Milky Way has neighbours of its own including the Andromeda galaxy. Look ahead to its future collision with our galaxy, as well as the bigger structure of this part of the universe. We’ll also look at how we measure distances across the vast chasm of space.

[image: colliding galaxies courtesy of NASA]


The Cosmic Microwave Background - part of Astrophysics for Beginners online course
Week 6 – The Universe

Key topics: the Big Bang, the multiverse, dark energy

The Big Bang, the formation of the first stars and galaxies and the dark energy are all covered. We’ll even contemplate the possibility of other universes and other versions of you.

[image: the Cosmic Microwave Background – WMAP]

About me


I’m an award-winning astronomy author and speaker. My nineteen books have sold more than 400,000 copies worldwide and been translated into 21 languages. Plus I’ve written over 200 popular science articles for publications including The Guardian, New Scientist, The Wall Street Journal and BBC Science Focus. I also write the monthly Absolute Beginners column for Astronomy Now magazine.

As well as writing a book with the astronaut Tim Peake, I’ve won The Margaret Mallett Award for Children’s Non-Fiction and been runner-up in the European Astronomy Journalism Prize. A Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, I’ve appeared on BBC News, Sky News and Radio 5Live. I’m also lucky enough to have had the asteroid (15347) Colinstuart named after me.

Book your place on the next course now

Full Course – all six weeks



Full Course + a signed copy of the book the course is partly based on



* includes UK postage only. Non-UK customers can still order a book here

Alternatively you can buy tickets for individual weeks for £25 each

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