04 Oct 2007

Universities offer sky gazers chance to shine

New astronomy course launched

New astronomy course launched

Online astronomy course unveiled on anniversary of Sputnik launch

Sky gazers across the globe can extend their knowledge of space by studying for a new Internet-based qualification in astronomy.

The Open University and the University of Manchester have joined forces to offer a Certificate in Introductory Astronomy to budding students of the night sky.

The distance learning qualification brings together the renowned expertise of The Open University in developing and delivering part-time distance learning courses with the advanced astronomical facilities and knowledge of the famous Jodrell Bank Observatory at The University of Manchester.

Students will be able to choose from a number of component courses that cover subjects such as the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), the exploration of the Solar System, radio astronomy and the Big Bang.

Those wishing to enrol upon the course do not necessarily need any formal qualifications or previous knowledge of astronomy. The course content will be delivered both through The Open University's supported open learning channels and the University of Manchester’s online learning environment.

But there will also be opportunities for students to visit the iconic Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire – home to the famous Lovell radio telescope, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Those enrolled on the course will be able to use and control a special telescope at Jodrell Bank over the Web – from anywhere in the world.

Students who complete the course will be offered the chance to study for further qualifications with both institutions.

Professor Niels Walet, Learning Enhancement Officer in the School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Manchester, said: “The two universities bring complementary research expertise to the project allowing the development of a wider range of courses than would otherwise be possible by a single institution.”

Dr Tim O'Brien, Astronomer and Course Leader at The University of Manchester, said: “The Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at The University of Manchester is a world leader in radio astronomy-related research and technology development, and has a research programme ranging from the discovery of planets orbiting other stars to the study of the origin of the universe in the Big Bang.”

Dr Andrew Norton, Astronomer and Course Leader at The Open University added: “The Open University’s Astronomy Research Group and Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute have leading roles in areas such as compact binary stars, extrasolar planets, star formation and planetary science. There are also areas where our joint expertise is significantly enhanced, such as time domain astrophysics. This Certificate in Introductory Astronomy can be a stepping stone for students to more advanced courses in astronomy and planetary science offered by The Open University.”

The launch of the new qualification follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between The Open University and the University of Manchester in 2006.

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