18 Free Astronomy Courses You Can Find on YouTube There are tons of free courses out there now, but often, you have to sign up for certain times and do a bunch of homework. Some of us just want to learn casually, but we still want to learn from some of the best minds on the planet. So, we compiled this list of complete astronomy courses and lecture series that you can find on YouTube. Enjoy, and if you have any additions, please let us know! Cosmology with Leonard Susskind Instructor: Prof. Leonard Susskind School: Stanford University URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32wIKaLkvc4&list=PL888811AA667C942F (playlist) We might as well start with the heavyweights, eh? This class aims to teach the basics of modern cosmology. Prof. Susskind goes out of his way to mention that a lot more than these “basics” goes into major cosmological discoveries. So, you’d expect this class to be fairly rudimentary, and to some extent it is, but you’ll still have a lot easier of a time understand this stuff if you have some math under your belt. Great stuff, though. Introductory Astronomy Instructor: Prof. Robert Nomiroff School: Michigan Tech URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OO7qvAETCMs&list=PL8EC4ACB40CB37B9D (playlist) This is an older lecture series (2010) but not super old. There are 25 total videos here, and each is about 45 minutes long. As an introductory series, this course stays in the solar system for the first 16 lectures or so, and ends with discussions of the bigger cosmic structures. Frontiers/Controversies in Astrophysics Instructor: Prof. Charles Bailyn School: Yale University URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzmFc2gjUo4 (first lecture) The coolest thing about this course is that it’s designed specifically for non-scientists (he says in the beginning of the lecture that he doesn’t want any scientists in the class). It’s a great series that covers the exoplanets, black holes and cosmology. Astronomy: Mechanisms of the Universe Instructor: Prof. Carolin Crawford School: Gresham College URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AA2hhAYMSMc&list=PL4F30369DD56438FE (playlist) This is a great, current lecture series from Gresham College. If you’re looking for lectures that talk more about bigger cosmological structures, this is probably a good one to check out. A lot of attention is paid to how bigger structures, like galaxies, interact with each other. There’s great information on stuff like planets, too, but overall, the scope here is bigger. Introduction to General Astronomy Instructor: Prof. Marc Davis School: U.C. Berkeley URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o47yQHNq16Y&list=PLCF4aVgUvHhEFrjWFJtXrEx9WCJjNHNgm (playlist) This is a course from 2011 that approaches astronomy from more an overview perspective. It’s still scientific (not like the Yale course), but there’s not a bunch of crazy math or anything. The quality’s not the best here, either. Still, it’s a bunch of good, free lectures. Physics 20B: Cosmology Instructor: Prof. James Bullock School: University of California – Irvine URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wzj41RO4ls&list=PLOqTF-v0F21rjrbPrOnhuYUhHTw1dUp8v (playlist) This is a really cool course that addresses cosmology first in a historical context and then as an applied science. Prof. Bullock presented these lectures with the intention of eventually publishing them in an online video format, so the quality is really good. The visuals, speaking, and product here are all excellent. Astronomy & Integrative Biology Instructor: Prof. Charles Marshall and Eliot Quataert School: U.C. Berkeley URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7h4TX9RE40&list=PL-XXv-cvA_iClVCQCE7QTTyI6HsA7ikza&t=0s (playlist) This class focuses on astronomical history from the big bang until the emergence of humans, merging cosmic concepts with the origins of humanity. Overall, it’s a pretty cool look at how we humans tie into the cosmos at large. Exploring Black Holes Instructor: Edmund Betschinger School: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFGiQEEvh18&list=PL858478F1EC364A2C (playlist) As far as cool factor goes, this course is loaded with it. The downside, though, is that some of the lectures seem to be missing (there are only six here). It’s also fairly outdated (2008). Still, who doesn’t like learning about black holes? The Planets Instructor: Prof. Geoff Marcy School: U.C. Berkeley URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnNf1ildGo4 (first lecture) This course is a bit closer to home. The bulk of the lectures here cover the planets in our solar system, although some time is given to planets at large and their characteristic properties (planet formation, atmospheres—that kind of thing). The best thing about this course is probably Prof. Marcy, though. He’s a very entertaining speaker (more so than most, at least). Astronomy Lectures by Ian Morrison Instructor: Ian Morrison School: Gresham College URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DI5XNHn86xo&list=PLF2F44EB93627D7E9 (playlist) I’m not sure if this is a full course or not. It may just be a lecture series, but the lectures are really good and they cover a lot of the “fun” topics in astronomy. For example, the first lecture is called “Black Holes: No Need to be Afraid!” Another is called “Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe.” There are only six lectures in this playlist, but they’re all fun ones. Motion of the Sky Instructor: Justin Higgins School: Millard West High School URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7h9GLZNZMc&list=PL_qfoW0XrJEgFJrdK5Lj8Eyclit3OHMaj (playlist) This is a high school-level lecture series. Really, these aren’t lectures; they’re more like mini-lessons. However, there are 42 videos in all, and the focus here is on making basic concepts entertaining, so if you’re looking for one of these you can watch with your kids, this is probably the best bet. Introduction to Astronomy Instructor: Prof. Viken Kiledjian School: East L.A. College URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOecUTFctLA&list=PL2yn_e5rlIW0bsNIOc3dEadJ6YwTOoj-Z (playlist) This is a massive playlist of astronomy lectures (about 132 in all) that take place over the course of a semester. It’s a bit unorganized, and the quality isn’t that great (the video just comes from someone taping from the back, so you can’t really see the presentations). Still, Prof. Kiledjian is a pretty good speaker. Survey of Astronomy Instructor: Becky Baker, M.S. Ed School: Missouri State University URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_N0WaZ1LIw&list=PLdLiRaajwSXRYPwqLkyZCm7619qtzjwBI (playlist) Aside from being a treasure trove of cheesy, 90s-esque video effects, this is another good introduction to astronomy course. Like a lot of introductory courses in this field, this course starts small with our own solar system and expands its discussion into the cosmos at large. However, the discussion of “bigger” stuff is a pretty small percentage of the lectures here, and there’s not much on black holes. Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series Instructor: Various School: N/A – Sponsored lectures URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fn-3G_N0hy4&index=3&list=PLeZsNwyz9KyG5zY2GTzrBGgul55f_cNnL (playlist) This isn’t a course per se, but it’s a really fantastic lecture series. Since it’s not an academic course, the lectures are a bit more nuanced, current and exciting. For example, one of the lectures is on NASA’s SOFIA mission. Another is on being an interplanetary explorer. These are a lot snazzier than a standard astronomy course, and there are 29 of them. UNL Astronomy Guest Lecture Series Instructor: Various School: University of Nebraska – Lincoln URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iExTuZ2LfoE&list=PL_bGkNDHTZQAUA4bObsls2eqk6BtinPVG (playlist) This isn’t a course, but it’s a really great lecture series. One of the cool things about this one is that there are so many awesome speakers. There are also some really cool topics that I didn’t know much about (I’m definitely an astronomy novice, though), like archeoastronomy. However, some of the lectures here are about astronomy pedagogy and not just straight up astronomy. That might be interesting to some, but it could also be irrelevant if you’re not a teacher. I liked them, though. Astronomy 7B: Introduction to Astrophysics Instructor: Prof. Josh Bloom School: U.C. Berkeley URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx1tMuj2hNo&list=PL69F56882DF6F04B3 (playlist) The lectures here are good, but the quality is terrible. Sometimes, you’re just going to be starting a blue or black screen, and the slides that do show up on screen show up sporadically, which is obviously annoying. Still, Prof. Bloom is a good speaker, and the information is top-notch. Astronomy 101 Instructor: Prof. Dan Reichert School: Skynet University (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zbg-w2liDJI&list=PL9D50FACE21694A26 (playlist) This is a good, general lecture series that focuses on pragmatic astronomical concepts. One of the unique things about this course is that you’ll be able to see some of the physical demonstrations Prof. Reichert does in the classroom, which is kind of cool. So, you’ll be able to see some neat scale models, which can make some of the concepts easier to understand. Introduction to Astronomy Instructor: John Armstrong School: Weber State University URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDAgrHIEwiE&list=PLbQoJhr-ooLVS6tIiEUhIXmJ1hDJai0w3 (playlist) This is a good introductory astronomy course that covers a lot of the stuff as the others. However, John Armstrong specializes in extrasolar planetary research, so a lot of the information in this course revolves around that. One of the good things about this course is that all the lectures were recorded specifically to be played online (it’s an online course), so it comes across really well on YouTube, and the visuals are great. Want to talk about this post? Read the discussion on Reddit here and here.