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Rutgers University

Analyzing the Universe

Rutgers University via Coursera


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Using publicly available data from NASA of actual satellite observations of astronomical x-ray sources, we explore some of the mysteries of the cosmos, including neutron stars, black holes, quasars and supernovae. We will analyze energy spectra and time series data to understand how these incredible objects work. We utilize an imaging tool called DS9 to explore the amazing diversity of astronomical observations that have made x-ray astronomy one of the most active and exciting fields of scientific investigation in the past 50 years. Each week we will explore a different facet of x-ray astronomy. Beginning with an introduction to the nature of image formation, we then move on to examples of how our imaging program, DS9, can aid our understanding of real satellite data. You will using the actual data that scientists use when doing their work. Nothing is "canned". You will be able to appreciate the excitement that astronomers felt when they made their important discoveries concerning periodic binary x-ray sources, supernovae and their remnants, and extragalactic sources that have shaped our understanding of cosmology.


  • Light and the Nature of Images....Plus, an Introduction to DS9
    • Welcome to Week 1 of "Analyzing the Universe!" This week we explore the nature of light, and how we get astronomical information from the images we obtain. The lectures and "wiki" material address these themes: light, image formation, and DS9. Dive right in!
  • Basic Astronomical Data and a DS9 Smorgasbord
    • Welcome to week two of "Analyzing the Universe". This week we will be exploring some of the means we have at our disposal to find out many things about the stars. It is really quite incredible that these tiny pinpoints of light can yield so much information about their nature and about the structure of the Universe as a whole. And if this is your first visit to the course, welcome and jump right in!
  • Stellar Evolution and White Dwarfs
    • This week is our first in-depth look at an x-ray source, and it involves a white dwarf in a binary system. So sharpen up your detective skills, keep your copy of DS9 at the ready, and let's get down to business. It should be an exciting week.
  • Orbits, Gravity, and Clocks in the Sky
    • This week we turn our attention to another fascinating cosmic source, discovered in the infancy of x-ray astronomy: Cen X-3. In so doing, we will see how binary stars can determine and influence many of the interesting and surprising features of our observations.
  • Supernovae, Our Cosmic Recycling Centers
    • This week, we will be examining supernovae, and their remnants. These fascinating objects are the breeding grounds for future stars, and were the sources of virtually all the atoms that make up our solar neighborhood. Every atom of calcium in every bone in your body, for example, was once shot out of a supernova, billions of years ago.
  • To the Ends of the Universe; Quasars, 3C273, and beyond
    • This week we wrap things up with trips to galaxies and exotic objects, seen long ago and far away. The mysterious quasars provide clues about the way our Universe is evolving in time. They are incredible objects (actually, come to think of it, what isn't incredible in the x-ray sky?) discovered almost exactly a half century ago, quite by accident. We will explore the astonishingly prodigious x-ray output of 3C 273, one of the nearest ones, at a mere 2.5 billion light years away.

Taught by

Terry A. Matilsky


4.2 rating, based on 6 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 228 ratings

Start your review of Analyzing the Universe

  • This is a unique course out of many astrophysical MOOCs offered, since it focuses on analysis. You will be using a DS9 tool and really do X-ray spectroscopic etc. analysis of various space phenomena. That was the most fun part of the course. It also features lectures on basic cosmology and astrophysics, with a detailed course wiki. Assignments aren't difficult, but there's a lot of calculations, however easy ones, and half of them include DS9 work. Don't worry - a detailed tutorial is given as the first module, so what are you waiting for? Go and analyze the universe from beautiful images with high-tech software.
  • Anonymous
    This course is interesting. The professor is very enthusiastic about his field. IMHOit isn't for beginners in astronomy....way too much math. The course is 6 weeks and with the material covered it should be 10 to 12 weeks. I lasted 3 weeks and gave it up when I saw the 3rd week quiz/homework. I couldn't answer a single question without hours of age 74, life is too short to be stressed out.
  • Billie J Osborne
    Very interesting course with an enthusiastic instructor. I admit to a couple "Penny" moments, but was able to work them through. A deep space program (DS9) using pics from the x-ray telescope, Chandra, was used in several of the quizzes. I would take more courses from this instructor if they were available.
  • Arnaud Dion
    This course is really fantastic ! It gives you a deep view in the field of high energy (X rays) astrophysics. There is also practical work with a software for astronomy. Processing real data from a scientific satellite is really interesting. The maths are easy, nothing more than a few equations.
  • Michal
    This course is OK but not really entertaining. The content of the lectures failed to catch my attention, possibly because there's too much time spent in DS9 - specialized app used to analyze x-ray data. Beginner level would be correct - the tests are pretty straightforward.
  • Pravir Kumar Arya

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