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Great Heroes and Discoveries of Astronomy

There's more to astronomy than Hubble. Meet the bright minds and unsung heroes of astronomy and hear the human stories behind our greatest scientific endeavors.
Great Heroes and Discoveries of Astronomy is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 32.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Hero of Education - Professor Emily Levesque As a very active amateur astronomer and viewer of The Great Courses (Wondrium), I have to position this course at the top of an extraordinary class of exceptional courses. The vastness and completeness of the topics, individuals, and details presented is very impressive. The production itself is very well done. The star is absolutely Professor Levesque. Her knowledge, presentation skills, and obvious enthusiasm is captivating. The only thing that I am sad about, is that the course has concluded. It is interesting how she discussed the James Webb Telescope and the possible outcomes. This course was produced before the launch. I wish I could see her excitement now that as of this review, JWST has exceeded all expectations. My congratulations to the team behind this course and especially to Professor Emily Levesque!
Date published: 2022-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic and Enthusiastic Presenter I am only three-quarters of the way through the course, and I am already sad that it will soon end. The excitement and energy that Dr Emily Levesque brings to the subject, and her broad-ranging coverage of the people and personalities over the centuries is really wonderful and she has kept me looking forward to the next lecture. She also touches on some cultural and social aspects of the history of the profession which I found to be very valuable and enlightening, although some might be put off and perceive these as “unwarranted excursions”. I personally think that they enhanced my experience. I am very glad that I bought this course and will watch it again, and suggest it to my wife.
Date published: 2022-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great way to present astronomy Recent popular books on physics and astronomy have tried to make their subjects more interesting by humanizing them. This course follows that path by weaving the lives of noted astronomers into the history of astronomy. The instructor presents all this with an infectious enthusiasm and an obvious command of the science. Her choice of "heroes" highlights the human diversity of important astronomers without displaying any particular bias. Along the way, the science is not lost and it is presented clearly and precisely. All in all, the course is excellent and should be of interest to beginner and expert alike.
Date published: 2022-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Well Done Overview of Astronomy As of this writing I have viewed over two thirds of this course. For me thus far it has served as an enjoyable overview of astronomy with a special emphasis on the "heroes" of science who have historically made astronomy such a compellingly attractive discipline of ongoing study. The three most compelling "heroes" of astronomy according to Professor Emily Levesque are Edwin Hubble, Albert Einstein, and Carl Sagan. My next lecture to watch will explore the great late ambassador of astronomy, Carl Sagan. I remember well Carl Sagan's great TV series "Cosmos" as well as his ground breaking popular books like :Contact" and Brocca's Brain" from when they were first telecast and published, respectively. So, I now look forward to remembering, reviewing and learning more about his many contributions to and consciousness raising ideas on astronomy. As for Edwin Hubble I have now learned why the famous Hubble Telescope bears his name. As for the great iconic scientific genius of the 20th century, Albert Einstein, I never tire if hearing about and learning as much as I am able to grasp about his monumental contributions to science, most notably, physics, as I can whenever and however I am able. Obviously, I highly recommend this Great Course to everyone who has taken their time to read this review. So, in parting, all I can say is purchase it, watch it, learn from it and enjoy it. Thank you.
Date published: 2022-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enthusiasm & Subject Knowledge As an amateur astronomer since 5th grade I thought I had a working knowledge of what has happened in Astronomy and what is planned for the future. My knowledge and love of Astronomy was pushed to a new level by this course, enabled by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the Professor.
Date published: 2022-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Filled in the history of great discoveries Very interesting. It lent a human side to the science of astronomy. The course was very well presented with enthusiasm. While basically historical, it covered some advances in astronomy that are generally overlooked and taken for granted. A great companion to the strictly scientific courses offered by Wondrium on astronomy.
Date published: 2022-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding presentation of information This is a course I greatly enjoyed. Dr. Levesque is very excited about this topic and shows it. She is an excellent speaker and presents with a minimum of math allowing for an audience that is mathematically challenged. In addition to astronomy, I am an ardent history buff. She covers the 13.8 billion years of the history of the universe in splendid fashion. This is a quality presentation of information and not just quantity for quantity sake. The visuals are breathtaking!! Overall, I recommend this course wholeheartedly without hesitation!!
Date published: 2022-07-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just the right approach This professor tells the history of astronomy by focusing on the lives of individual astronomers from Kepler and Galileo onward to the present day. These were (and are) fascinating people. In addition, describing their careers leads to explaining the science in a way best suited to an introductory course, i.e. describing how we know what we know. One unfortunate tradition in history is to credit all progress to a small number of "great men." Some historians try to make up for this by focusing on "women's history." Prof. Levesque wisely chooses to tell stories of both men and women who contributed to astronomy. There are plenty of heroes and heroines.
Date published: 2022-01-22
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Overview

Great Heroes and Discoveries of Astronomy takes you around the world and across time in search of the unsung heroes who evolved our understanding. Learn how Annie Jump Canon, Karl Lansky, Vera Rubin, and others sparked some of the great discoveries that have shaped astronomy over the past century through their groundbreaking new theories, serendipitous observations, and feats of engineering (on Earth and in space).

About

Emily Levesque

Astronomy is one of humanity’s earliest sciences.

INSTITUTION

University of Washington

Emily Levesque is an Associate Professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Washington. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate in Astronomy from the University of Hawai‘i. She received both the Annie Jump Cannon Award and the Newton Lacy Pierce Prize from the American Astronomical Society. She has been a Scialog Fellow, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, a Kavli Fellow, and a Cottrell Scholar. She has also received competitive research funding from NASA and the National Science Foundation.

By This Professor

Great Heroes and Discoveries of Astronomy
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Great Heroes and Discoveries of Astronomy

Trailer

What Astronomy’s Heroes Can Teach Us

01: What Astronomy’s Heroes Can Teach Us

Begin with an overview of the course, which revolves around the landmark accomplishments of Edwin Hubble, Albert Einstein, and Carl Sagan. Preview some of the fascinating astronomical discoveries tied to their legacies—and the many other great heroes of astronomy who helped make these scientific strides possible.

32 min
Designing and Building the Modern Telescope

02: Designing and Building the Modern Telescope

Meet George Ellery Hale, the father of the modern telescope. After learning the engineering science behind telescopes, follow the story of how Hale raised funds for a massive 200-inch telescope that went on to hold the world record for largest telescope for nearly 30 years—and sparked our continued plans to build more ELTs, or Extremely Large Telescopes.

26 min
Harvard Heroines Show Us the Stars

03: Harvard Heroines Show Us the Stars

With so many stars, could we possibly study them all? Enter three women: Williamina Fleming, who developed a method for classifying stars based on their spectra; Annie Jump Cannon, who rearranged the classification system’s order using multiple elements; and Cecilia Payne, who established the first temperature scale for stars based on their classifications and spectral appearances.

26 min
The Heroic Discovery of Other Galaxies

04: The Heroic Discovery of Other Galaxies

How did Henrietta Swan Leavitt, the prolific discoverer of variable stars, make sense of “Cepheid variables”? How did she calculate the relationship between their periods and their true luminosities? How did Edwin Hubble use Leavitt’s work (known as the Leavitt law) to measure the distance to the Great Andromeda Nebula in the 1920s?

25 min
Edwin Hubble and the Expanding Universe

05: Edwin Hubble and the Expanding Universe

In this lesson, unpack the mysteries of Hubble’s law. First, take a closer look at each part of this deceptively simple equation. Then, encounter the many heroes behind the law, including Vesto Slipher, an astronomer at Arizona’s Lowell Observatory, and Georges Lemaître, a Belgian priest and astronomer who may have influenced Hubble’s insights.

28 min
Heroes of the Hubble Space Telescope

06: Heroes of the Hubble Space Telescope

Here, focus on the story of Edwin Hubble’s most famous namesake: the Hubble Space Telescope. Among the heroes who helped make this vision a reality were the astrophysicist Lyman Spitzer; Nancy Roman, NASA’s first chief of astronomy; and a team of astronomers and telescope builders who helped repair a critical problem post-launch.

26 min
Pioneers of Radio Astronomy

07: Pioneers of Radio Astronomy

Today, radio astronomy is an immense field that has given rise to some of the most exciting scientific discoveries of the last century. Explore the work of Karl Jansky, who first detected radio waves in the early 1930s, and Grote Roeber, who built the first dedicated radio telescope and kicked off a surge of interest in radio astronomy.

26 min
Discovering the Cosmic Microwave Background

08: Discovering the Cosmic Microwave Background

What began as a faint hiss soon became one of the most crucial signals being studied in astronomy today. In this lesson on the cosmic microwave background (CMB), discover how detector designs, satellite observations, and other heroic efforts have shaped our understanding of the entire universe, from its age to the way it behaves today.

26 min
Vera Rubin and the Discovery of Dark Matter

09: Vera Rubin and the Discovery of Dark Matter

Today’s physicists and astronomers debate the idea of dark matter: what it’s made of, how it works, and what it means for the makeup of our universe. Go back to the beginning and learn about the invaluable contributions of Vera Rubin and Kent Ford, who found the first observational evidence of dark matter.

25 min
Finding the Beginning and End of the Cosmos

10: Finding the Beginning and End of the Cosmos

In this lesson, cover two of the most fundamental—and intertwined—questions astronomers around the world continually ask themselves: How did the universe begin? How will it end? Central to these questions is an innovative theory proposed by physicist Alan Guth that could explain the earliest moments of the universe.

28 min
How Astronomers Have Shaped Our World

11: How Astronomers Have Shaped Our World

Turn now to the physical and energetic extremes of the universe, which are some of the most brain-bending areas of astronomy. Begin by taking a look at how astronomers from all backgrounds—from theoretical physicist and humanitarian Albert Einstein to astronomer and gay rights advocate Frank Kameny—have taken on the challenge of shaping the world we live in, as well as the continued efforts in the profession to fight for continued and improved equity.

25 min
The Discoverers of Exploding Stars

12: The Discoverers of Exploding Stars

Supernovae are some of the most luminous events in our universe. Learn why Oscar Duhalde deserves a unique place among astronomical heroes, then examine how astronomers study and classify supernovae and eventually discovered SN 1987A: one of the most infamous and well-studied supernovae of all time.

25 min
Pioneers of X-ray and Ultraviolet Astronomy

13: Pioneers of X-ray and Ultraviolet Astronomy

X-ray and ultraviolet light are invaluable pieces in the puzzle of observational astronomy that have opened our eyes to everything from the solar corona to Earth’s magnetic field. Here, take a closer look at the importance of ultraviolet and X-ray astronomy, and the invaluable efforts of scientific heroes like George Carruthers and Riccardo Giacconi.

28 min
Finding Neutron Stars and Black Holes

14: Finding Neutron Stars and Black Holes

Discover the contributions of Jocelyn Bell and other astronomers in the search for neutron stars and black holes. How do astronomers observe these strange objects—and what, exactly, are they? What cutting-edge techniques are today’s teams of heroic astronomers using to study topics like stellar death and gravity?

26 min
Astronomers Put Einstein to the Test

15: Astronomers Put Einstein to the Test

There is perhaps no more famous theory in the field of physics than Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity. After unpacking the details of the infamous equation that revolutionized science, discover how Arthur Eddington catapulted Einstein and his newly proven theories about the relationship between space, time, and gravity worldwide.

30 min
The Heroic Detection of Gravitational Waves

16: The Heroic Detection of Gravitational Waves

Dig into what gravitational waves are, as well as the enormous observatories and groups of scientists that accomplished the mind-blowing task of detecting them. Focus on the work of teams led by Rai Weiss, Kip Thorne, and Barry Barish, whose Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected the tiny chirps of minuscule density waves in spacetime.

27 min
Heroic Surveys of the Entire Night Sky

17: Heroic Surveys of the Entire Night Sky

How do astronomers study and track changes in the night sky? Track the development of astronomical surveys, from the work of William and Caroline Herschel in the 1780s to build a systematic catalogue of the northern night sky to Jim Gunn’s work in the late 20th century to develop the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

24 min
Carl Sagan: The Great Space Communicator

18: Carl Sagan: The Great Space Communicator

Explore the vital importance of communicating astronomical discoveries to the rest of the world. First, witness the rise of planetariums that can simulate a night sky for the public. Then, turn to the storytelling of science-fiction authors like Jules Verne and Gene Roddenberry. Lastly, celebrate the impact of Carl Sagan and his Cosmos television series.

23 min
The Shoemakers Reveal Asteroids and Comets

19: The Shoemakers Reveal Asteroids and Comets

Take a census of our solar system’s smallest members, including asteroids and comets, and their relationship with geological history. We have Gene and Carolyn Shoemaker to thank for the dawn of planetary geology, which helped astronomers better understand the origins of the Moon and project the paths of near-Earth objects.

26 min
Discovering Pluto and the Kuiper Belt

20: Discovering Pluto and the Kuiper Belt

Explore Pluto’s brief decades of fame. Start with Percival Lowell and Clyde Tombaugh’s search for another planet lurking beyond Neptune, continue with Gerard Kuiper’s pioneering work on airborne observatories that revealed our first glimpse of Pluto’s atmosphere, and conclude with the planet’s demotion to a dwarf planet that was part of the ring of rock-and-ice objects known as the Kuiper belt.

26 min
Solar Astronomers Reveal the Universe

21: Solar Astronomers Reveal the Universe

Drawing on a great deal of heroic research, take a long (and safe) look at our own Sun. How have particle physics and asteroseismology helped us to understand the Sun’s inner workings and deepest layers? How did astronomers build solar telescopes that could tackle the unique challenges of studying the Sun and eye-catching events like sunspots and solar flares?

27 min
The Heroic Hunt for Extrasolar Planets

22: The Heroic Hunt for Extrasolar Planets

Astronomers today continue the search for exoplanets orbiting around other stars. In this lesson, meet astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail, who in the 1990s discovered not only the first extrasolar planets, but also the first multi-planet system and the first evidence of planets forming around pulsars.

26 min
The Seekers of Extraterrestrial Life

23: The Seekers of Extraterrestrial Life

Explore how we study the environments of distant planets and what—or who—may be living on them. Among the many bright minds you’ll meet are Vikki Meadows, whose team specializes in habitability and biosignatures, and Frank Drake, whose famous equation puts a number on the civilizations in our galaxy we could potentially detect.

26 min
Tomorrow’s Heroes of Astronomy

24: Tomorrow’s Heroes of Astronomy

Tomorrow’s heroes of astronomy are hard at work today pursuing new discoveries, testing new theories, and making groundbreaking technological advances. Topics in this final lesson include the Giant Magellan Telescope, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), and the James Webb Space Telescope.

28 min