Last month, I enrolled in an astronomy course to learn more about life in outer space. The course’s name is Super-Earth’s and Life, and it was conducted by the Director of Harvard’s Origins of Life Initiative, Dr. Dimitar Sasselov and Dr. Colin Fredericks.
This course provides an introduction to the field of astrobiology, a multidisciplinary science that inculcates elements of physics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, and geology. I learned the different methods of finding planets around stars. I also learned why we seek out certain “signatures” that could indicate the presence of life.
How do we measure the distance to the stars? What evidence do we have for how stars and planets form? What leads us to believe that some parts of our cells were once other cells in their own right? These are only some of the questions that the course answered.
I also explored interstellar distances, the origin of life, and the formation of stars and planets. I loved that the course had a mix of interesting videos, interviews, and short articles. In terms of the level of difficulty, I found the course relatively easy because of the user-friendly software and comprehensive articles. I loved the small video experiments because I truly felt like I was in a classroom, learning with other students.
I also loved the short quizzes at the end of each unit. With those quizzes, I could see if I was on track and whether I understood the concepts. I also enjoyed that they created a schedule for me depending on my level of proficiency. That made the course slightly more personalized. I faired an average of 92%.
I would recommend this course to aspiring astrobiologists because it focused a lot on human evolution on Earth. Mind you, it was truly a terrific course even for an amateur astrophysicist like me, but I think it would be a better fit for students interested in biology and astronomy.
Link to course