Professional Course

Our Place in the Universe

edX, Online
4 weeks
50 USD
Next course start
Start anytime See details
Self-paced Online
4 weeks
50 USD
Next course start
Start anytime See details
Self-paced Online
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Course description

Our Place in the Universe

Mankind has always been driven to learn and discoverhow the Universe works. Thispursuit is made possible by our inquisitive minds and our ability to think rationally. You are cordially invited to join us on a 4-week tour to see how we have come to our current understanding of our place in the universe today.

Starting about 5000 years ago, our ancestors tracked patterns and movement of celestial objects,making religious, philosophical, and scientific interpretations of what they saw. They discovered answers to the events, shape, and structure of the Universe. Over the course of history, great scientists and astronomers including Eratosthenes, Anaximander, Aristarchus, Ptolemy, andCopernicus have contributed important theories and models that shape our understanding of the world and the Universe as we know it today.

What is important torecognize is that we did not develop this knowledge overnight. Rather, it has been a long journey of astronomical explorationthat has developed and changed as we gained new perspectives and understanding. The exciting thing is that the journey continues today and there will always be new frontiersfor us to discover and to understand.

Upcoming start dates

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  • Self-paced Online
  • Online
  • English

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Training content

Our Place in the Universe MOOC Syllabus

Universe MOOC Syllabus.pdf ****

WEEK 1 Humans and the Cosmos

1.1 How Significant Are We?

* How Significant Are We (1)

* How Significant Are We (2)

1.2 Patterns in Nature

* What Patterns and Events Can We Observe in Nature?

* Are There Connections between Humans and the Heavens?

* Why Do the Sun, the Moon and the Stars Move?

* Astronomy is an Oldest Science

1.3 Celestial Bodies: Why Are They There?

* What Can be Learnt from the Sun’s Shadow?

* The Four Special Days of Season Changes

* Why Do the Sunrise and Sunset Positions Change?

1.4 Ancient Models of the Universe

* What Are the Shapes of the Earth and the Heaven?

* How Did People Discover that the Earth is Not Flat?

WEEK 2 Changing Perspectives of the Shape of the Earth

2.1 Turning of the Heavens

* The Pole Star

* The Pole of Heaven

2.2 A Spherical Earth

* How Can We Define Directions and Specific Locations on Earth?

* Looking at the Earth with a New Perspective: The Spherical Model

2.3 The Sun’s Journey through the Stars

* The Sun’s Journey in the Celestial Sphere

* The Zodiac Constellations

* The Stars and the Seasons

* The Ecliptic and the Seasons

* How Do We Tell the Positions of Stars on the Celestial Sphere?

2.4 A Two-sphere Universe

A Two-Sphere Universe Model

* How does the Two-sphere Universe Model Show the Motion of the Sun and Stars?

Special Feature: The Armillary Sphere

* How did the Armillary Sphere Come About?

* How Does the Armillary Sphere Work?

* Making Measurements with the Armillary Sphere

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ _

WEEK 3 The Mysterious Patterns of Cosmic Objects

3.1 Dance of the Moon

* Dance of the Moon

* Determining the Size and Distance of the Moon

* How Does the Sun Affect the Phases of the Moon?

* Lunar Eclipse

* Two Different Lengths of a Month

3.2 The Calendar

* Star Calendar

* Different Calendars of the World

3.3 The Five Wanderers and the Seven Luminaries

* The Five Wanderers and the Seven Luminaries

* The Motions of the Planets

* The Stories of the Two Brightest Planets: Venus and Mars

* The Planets in the Grand Scheme of the Universe

3.4 The Change in Positions of Stars

* The Uneven Seasons

* Why is the Pole Moving? (1)

* Why is the Pole Moving? (2)

WEEK 4 From An Earth-Centered to A Sun-Centered Universe

4.1 The Language of Mathematics in Astronomy

* Cycles Upon Cycles

* Cosmology According to Aristotle

4.2 How Big is the Earth Compared to the Universe?

* The First Measurement of the Size of the Earth

* The First Measurement of the Distance of the Sun

* The First Estimation of the Size of the Universe

4.3 The Post Ptolemy World

* The Age of Islamic Science

* Islam and the Awakening of Science in Europe

4.4 The Copernicus Revolution

* The Man Who Moved the Earth and Stopped the Sun

* Copernicus’ Sun-centered Universe

4.5 The Legacy of Copernicus

* A Milestone in Astronomy - Copernicus’ Heliocentric Model

* Controversies of the Copernican Theory

* What We Learned from Copernicus?

Course delivery details

This course is offered through University of Hong Kong, a partner institute of EdX.


  • Verified Track -$50
  • Audit Track - Free

Certification / Credits

What you'll learn

  • How the scientific method was developed and its application
  • Qualitative and quantitative everyday astronomical phenomena and patterns and how such understanding has evolved over history
  • Ways to recognize the emergence of rational thinking
  • How to assess the effects of social environments on intellectual development through historical examples
  • The role of science in transforming our philosophical thinking

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