This course is scheduled to start on the April 15th, 2018. The deadline for applications is March 31st, 2018. Contents and start date are subject to change.


Supernovae are highly energetic stellar explosions that can produce enough light to outshine a galaxy.

Here at the Astrophysics Research Institute we run a selection of life-long learning courses that can be taken by students who do not have any specialist scientific or mathematical background. These courses are taught using a variety of media such as interactive CD-ROM material, videos, DVDs, websites and online astronomy newsgroups. These courses are taken as part time distance learning courses; you do not need to attend any on-site classes.

The course is split into the following sections:

  1. The History of Supernova Observation: This section of the course details how and when supernovae were first discovered, and how their observation changed the course of astronomy. How are supernova detected by modern observatories and how often do they occur in any particular galaxy?

  2. Core Collapse Supernovae: What type of physical process cause core collapse supernovae to occur? What can the light curves of the explosion tell us about the progenitor of the supernova? How do the differences in the types of star produce different types of supernova explosions and what information can this tell us?

  3. Thermal Runaway Supernovae: What type of objects produce thermal runaway supernovae, and how are they different from a core collapse supernova? What are the similarities and differences between the light curves produced by the different explosions and what physical processes are responsible for these?

  4. Supernovae and Cosmology: This section of the course covers the use of supernova explosions as “standard candles” – ways in which we can measure the distances of far away objects in the Universe. What have these explosions told us about the expansion of the Universe and how have they changed our view of its ultimate fate?


The course lasts for five months. You will be expected to produce two pieces of coursework and take one multiple-choice test over the Internet throughout the course. Overall we expect that you will need to put around 100 hours of time into the course.

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