Free Online Course Module - Astronomy

GED150 Astronomy

Module 02: Backyard Astronomy



This unit covers astronomical observations including night-sky observations, the moon’s characteristics, eclipses and other astronomical cycles.


1. Locate, interpret, analyze and organize astronomical information from a variety of sources

1.1 Identify reliable sources of astronomical information

1.2 Identify key terms and figures in astronomy

1.4 Discuss current astronomical advances and discoveries

2. Describe astronomical cycles and how they affect our view of the night sky

2.1 Apply scientific reasoning to describe the observed characteristics and differences between various celestial objects

2.2 Explain reoccurring cycles from earth-based observations

2.3 Recognize common astronomical misconceptions and explain correct scientific theories in response

Lesson Notes

Welcome to our first full week of astronomy exploration. This is one of my favourite modules because we start by learning what we refer to as "backyard astronomy". This is the neat science that you can see from your very own backyard, and with very little technology. 

Here are four (4) short videos to get you started on your backyard look at Astronomy.


Naked Eye Observations 

We'll start with Naked-Eye Observations as they form the building blocks for budding astronomers. The night sky is much more than a bunch of little dots, a bright moon and the occasional shooting star. Once you learn more about what you are actually seeing in the sky, and why, you will be able to relax under the stars and share this information with your friends and family.


Cycles in the Sky

One of the most important aspects of naked-eye astronomy is the understanding of various Cycles in the Sky. Bodies spin, orbit and even wobble, and all in a predictable manner. As such, the cycles of all of the visible bodies can be anticipated and help you find your way around the night sky.

Moon Phases

Of course, our own moon figures prominently into these cyclic observations, providing us with a consistent display of Moon Phases. Although the moon is the most viewed “out of the world” object, it is the subject of a surprisingly large number of simple scientific misconceptions. This video will help to dispel many of these mistaken beliefs and bring you a bit closer to our neighbour in the sky.



Occasionally, the bodies we see in the skies Eclipse and alter the “normal” view of the sky. Just about any object can be part of an eclipse, however we most often use this term when referring to the straight-line configuration of the Earth, Sun and either the moon or a planet. We will have a look at why they occur and what we can learn from them.

Want More? 

Hey there!

We're just getting started, but if your interest has already been piqued by this module's topics, I have some extra content for you to explore...

Below I've gathered some of the most interesting things I could find on NAKED-EYE OBJECTS, CYCLES, MOON PHASES, and ECLIPSES!

  • THIS MONTH: NASA's What's up this month video will give you a quick synopsis of what's in the sky this month.
  • THIS WEEK: Sky & Telescope offer up a weekly observations (check back often!) 
  • MOON PHASESDateandtime provides data on phases of the Moon - for anytime and for anyplace.
  • THE EARTH'S MOVEMENTVsauce engages us with how the Earth's movement influences calendars and time! 
  • THE MOON (as a disco ball?)Vsauce again with what would actually occur (if this were possible)!
  • ECLIPSES OVERVIEWVox provides a brief but effective overview of eclipses.
  • ECLIPSE DATESDateandtime provides dates and anticipated views of upcoming eclipses - for anytime and for anyplace! 


Videos have their (time) listed at the end the title that you know what you're getting yourself into.
If you prefer watching in YouTube or full-screen please click on the title of the video - Or the YouTube icon on the video.

Naked Eye Observations:

Sky & Telescope: This Week’s Sky At a Glance

Check out Sky & Telescope’s weekly observing update, Sky at a Glance, published every Friday. Not only do they provide simple sky maps and observing tips for the upcoming week, they also keep you up to date on the latest celestial events.

Cycles in the Sky:

Moon Phases

Presented by

Moon Phases for THIS, or any year with full moon and new moon times. 
- When is the next full moon?
- When are the best moon viewing times?

How Earth Moves (21:36)

Presented by Vsauce

Join Vsauce in this well presented journey into time, calendars, the Sun and Earth. 
It is time to question... TIME: and how the Earth moves!

Moon Phases:

What if the Moon was a Disco Ball? (6:04)

Presented by Vsauce

Just for FUN! and because I love the Vsauce channel !
For those who have ever wondered what it would be like to replace our Moon with a moon-sized disco ball; or wondered what a moon-size mirror orbiting the Earth as the International Space Station would look like from Earth?  Explore!! 

Why Does the Moon Change Shape? (2:30)

Presented by Scott Hobbis

A very short 2-D instructional animation created to show how the moon appears to change shape throughout its cycle.


Solar and Lunar Eclipses, Explained (3:47)

Presented by Vox

A brief but effective overview of eclipses. (Website)

For detailed information on dates and times of eclipses (and transits), as well as visual representation of how the eclipses will appear in your region/city.

Concepts to Consider

  1. Why do you (or perhaps currently you don't...) have an interest in astronomy?
  2. What is your favourite space-related song - or one that stands out in your mind?
  3. What is something that you always thought was really neat about space/astronomy