Astronomy Education Series


The Astronomy Education Series

The Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium & Observatory at the Vanderbilt Museum is pleased to offer the general public access to its Astronomy Education Series of six mini-courses (schedule below). Each course builds upon the prior one in the sequence, while it provides flexibility for students to gauge their own level of interest. Students may enroll in as many, or as few, courses as they choose. It is recommended, however, that course 1 be taken as a prerequisite for any of the other five courses.

During the COVID-19 shutdown, this series will be taught remotely via Zoom. Once the Planetarium re-opens, the courses will be taught at the Planetarium in a classroom setting. The series also will be livestreamed for those students who prefer, or are required, to attend remotely.

Instructor Bob Unger has pursued a lifelong interest in astronomy. He taught in the Planetarium’s outreach program Discovering the Universe: Mobile Classroom, has participated in projects for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and is one of the command-console operators of the Planetarium’s projection system. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in earth sciences and a Master of Business Administration.

Occasional guest speakers may be invited.

These courses are designed for beginning to novice-level amateur astronomers – and for anyone who wishes to expand their knowledge of Astronomy and the night sky. These courses provide a more formal education than is typically provided at planetarium shows and exhibits, or from media outlets. The courses are designed for adult learners (age 16 years and up) interested in Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cosmology, and the night sky. Total lecture class size will be limited, with a minimum of 10 students and a maximum of 25.

The textbook is free in electronic form as a PDF document. Students also may choose to purchase the hard-copy textbook Astronomy by Fraknoi, Morrison, Wolff.

For additional questions or information, feel free to call Bob at (631) 988-3510, or email him at


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Course Schedule

COURSE I LECTURES [course fee $60 members, $70 non-members]:
Tuesday, 9/15/20 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Science & the Universe: A Brief Tour
Tuesday, 9/22/20 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Observing the Sky: The Birth of Astronomy
Tuesday, 9/29/20 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Orbits & Gravity
Tuesday, 10/6/20 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Earth, Moon & Sky

COURSE II LECTURES [course fee $60 members, $70 non-members] (prerequisite Course I):
Tuesday, 10/13/20 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Radiation & Spectra
Tuesday, 10/20/20 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Astronomical Instruments
Tuesday, 10/27/20 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Other Worlds: An Introduction to the Solar System
Tuesday, 11/3/20 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Earth As A Planet

COURSE III LECTURES [course fee $90 members, $110 non-members] (prerequisite Course I):
Tuesday, 11/10/20 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Cratered Worlds
Tuesday, 11/17/20 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Earthlike Planets: Venus & Mars
Tuesday, 11/24/20 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm The Giant Planets
Tuesday, 12/1/20 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Rings, Moons & Pluto
Tuesday, 12/8/20 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Comets & Asteroids: Debris of the Solar System
Tuesday, 12/15/20 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Cosmic Samples & the Origins of the Solar System

COURSE IV LECTURES [course fee $60 members, $70 non-members] (prerequisite Course I):
Tuesday, 1/5/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm The Sun: A Garden-Variety Star
Tuesday, 1/12/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm The Sun: A nuclear Powerhouse
Tuesday, 1/19/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Analyzing Starlight
Tuesday, 1/26/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm The Stars: A Celestial Census

COURSE V LECTURES [course fee $60 members, $70 non-members] (prerequisite Course I):
Tuesday, 2/2/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Celestial Distances
Tuesday, 2/9/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Between the Stars: Gas & Dust in Space
Tuesday, 2/16/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Star Birth & the Discovery of Planets Beyond Our Solar System
Tuesday, 2/23/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Stars from Adolescence to Old Age

COURSE VI LECTURES [course fee $120 members, $140 non-members] (prerequisite Course I):
Tuesday, 3/9/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm The Death of Stars
Tuesday, 3/16/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Black Holes and Curved Space-Time
Tuesday, 3/23/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm The Milky Way Galaxy
Tuesday, 3/30/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Galaxies
Tuesday, 4/6/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Active Galaxies, Quasars, and Supermassive Black Holes
Tuesday, 4/13/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm The Evolution & Distribution of Galaxies
Tuesday, 4/20/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm The Big Bang
Tuesday, 4/27/21 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Life in the Universe   

NOTE: Some courses may include field trips, independent study, group projects, and laboratory sessions, in addition to these lectures. The Planetarium facilities will be utilized as they become available.


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