|Dumb bell nebula, M27.|
Eventually I decided on a telescope, or three, but today we'll discuss learning proper astrophysics online. While surfing around I came across these wonderful astronomy courses on edX.org given by Paul Francis and Brian Schmidt at the Australian National University. There are four courses: Greatest unsolved mysteries of the universe, Exploring exoplanets, The violent universe, and Cosmology. Together they correspond to ANU's first year of astrophysics. If you would like to start a bit more basic there's also the Introduction to solar systems astronomy given by Frank Timmes at Arizona State University.
Genetics and medicine has little compared to astronomy when it comes to data availability. It turns out that most catalogues of stars, galaxies, etc. get turned into public databases fairly quickly, which is reasonable given the small number of really large telescopes and space missions compared to the amount of data one of these can collect (Oh, and the number of undergrads astrophysics departments around the world have to contend with). So, I downloaded the Hipparcos and Tycho2 catalogues and played around with them in R. Good fun for summer vacation. I might write a bit more about that later. Here's a star density plot of the Tycho2 data for now.
|Tycho2 star density in a galactic aitoff projection produced using R. We can clearly see the dust clouds that obscure parts of the galaxy from view.|