Short Videos For Use with Each Chapter of OpenStax Astronomy

Short Videos

For Use with Each Chapter of OpenStax Astronomy 

A List by Andrew Fraknoi (Foothill College)


Note:  This list includes the short (15 minutes or less) videos recommended in the textbook, plus a few others that became available recently or have been suggested by adopters.  Recommend others that you have found particularly useful for Astro 101 to:



Chapter 1: Science and the Universe


Cartoon explaining how scientific notation works and why it’s useful:

Wanderers (a tour of the solar system with words by Carl Sagan, imagining other worlds with dramatically realistic paintings, 4 min):

Powers of Ten (from Cosmic Voyage, narrated by Morgan Freeman, 8 min 35 sec):

Powers of Ten (a much earlier version, narrated by Philip Morrison; a classic short video):

The Known Universe (video tour from the American Museum of Natural History: with realistic animation, music, and captions; 6 min):


Chapter 2: Observing the Sky: The Birth of Astronomy


In 1971, Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott took a hammer and feather to the Moon and dropped them in a vacuum. NASA video at:

Difference between geocentrism and heliocentrism (short animation showing planet orbits in each model):

Excerpt on Erathosthenes and his measurement of the Earth from the Cosmos TV series with Carl Sagan (6 min):  (also see the 3-min cartoon at: )

The story of Copernicus (5 min) from a series on the History Channel:

Mini-biography of Galileo (3 min) with pictures and interviews:

The story of Galileo: his life and work from The Universe series (7 min):

Derren Brown on Astrology (8-min excerpt from a British TV show in which magician and skeptic Brown cleverly exposes pseudo-science): (also available at: )


Chapter 3: Orbits and Gravity


Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, and Planetary Motion (15 min German video, in English):

Isaac Newton rap battles Bill Nye (3 min):

Beyond the Big Bang: Sir Isaac Newton's Law of Gravity (History Channel; 5 min):

Richard Feynman on the Discovery of Neptune (5 min b&w Caltech lecture):


Chapter 4: Earth, Moon, and Sky


Bill Nye, the Science Guy Explains the Seasons (for kids, but college students can enjoy the bad jokes too):

Exploratorium Videos on Observing Eclipses Safely:

Geography Lesson on the Arrangement and History of Time Zones (3 min):

Shadow of the Moon (2 min, NASA Goddard; explains eclipses of the Sun, with discussion and animation, focusing on a 2015 eclipse, and showing what an eclipse looks like from space):

Strangest Time Zones in the World: A History of Time Zones and Examples of Places that Keep Their Own Time (9 min):

Understanding Lunar Eclipses (2 min, NASA Goddard; explains the reason why there isn’t an eclipse every month with good animation):

Animated Maps of the 2017 Total Eclipse of the Sun in the U.S.: to the maps menu to see how the dark shadow of the Moon will move through those states where the eclipse is total)

NASA Visualization Studio Videos with U.S. Map for 2017 Eclipse:


Chapter 5: Radiation and Spectra


NASA’s  5-minute introductory video on the electromagnetic spectrum:

Short video on how a prism bends light to make a rainbow of colors:

ESA video with Doppler ball demonstration and Doppler effect and satellites (5 min):

NASA Mission Science Video Tour of the Bands of the Electromagnetic Spectrum (8 short videos):


Chapter 6: Astronomical Instruments


National Geographic Video on the ALMA radio telescope array (1 min):

NASA Video (11 min) on the SOFIA Infrared Airborne Observatory:

Seeing Beyond: The James Webb Space Telescope (14-min introductory video):

Galaxies Viewed in Full Spectrum of Light -- Scientists with the Spitzer Observatory show how a galaxy looks different at different wavelengths (6:22):  

Keck Telescope (4 min intro from History Channel’s Modern Marvels):


Chapter 7: Introduction to the Solar System


Shane Gellert’s “I Need Some Space” uses NASA photography and models to show the various worlds with which we share our system:

In the “Wanderers” video, we see some of the planets and moons as tourist destinations for future explorers, with commentary taken from recordings by Carl Sagan:

Brief PBS Evolution series excerpt explaining how we use radioactive elements to date the Earth:

Science Channel video with Bill Nye the Science Guy showing how scientists have used radioactive dating to find the age of the Earth:

Origins of the Solar System (13-min video from Nova ScienceNow, focusing on the evidence from meteorites, narrated by Neil Tyson):

To Scale: Constructing a scale model of the solar system in the Nevada desert (7 min):


Chapter 8: Earth as a Planet


Animation of how the drift of the continents has changed the appearance of our planet’s crust:

NASA’s scientific visualization studio has a view of what would have happened to Earth's ozone layer by 2065 if CFCs had not been regulated:

In a short excerpt from the National Geographic documentary Earth: The Biography, Dr. Iain Stewart explains the fluid nature of our atmosphere:

Short PBS video on the physics of the greenhouse effect:

Real Time Globe of Earth showing wind patterns which can be zoomed and moved to your preferred view:

Earth Globes Movies (including Earth at night):

What Does It Feel Like to Fly Over Earth (1 min video by James Drake stitched together from astronaut photography):

Flying over the Earth at Night:

Meteor Hits Russia Feb. 15, 2013 – Archive of Eyewitness Footage:


Chapter 9: The Moon and Mercury


Short video produced by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter team about the evolution of the Moon, tracing it from its origin about 4.5 billion years ago to the Moon we see today:

Rotating globe of Mercury, in false color, showing some of the variations in the composition of the planet’s surface:

Tour of the Moon (2012, NASA Goddard, using LRO images, narrated, 5 min, nicely done):

Brief video from the Universe series on the History Channel showing the giant impact origin of the Moon:


Chapter 10: Mars and Venus


Magellan Maps Venus (BBC clip with Dr. Ellen Stofan on the radar images of Venus and what they tell us; 3:06):

Planet Venus: The Deadliest Planet (Venus surface and atmosphere summary; 2:04):

Curiosity rover’s complex landing sequence:“7 Minutes of Terror” (NASA video)   

50 Years of Mars Exploration (NASA’s summary of all missions through MAVEN; good quick overview; 4:08):  

Our Curiosity (Mars Curiosityrover 2-year anniversary video narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Felicia Day; 6:01)

Four-minute video tour of Valles Marineris, narrated by planetary scientist Phil Christensen:


Chapter 11: The Giant Planets


Voyager: The Grand Tour: Jet Propulsion Laboratory video that describes the Voyager mission and what it found (15 min): 

Beautiful short (1 min) video showing the rotation of Jupiter with its many atmospheric features, made from Hubble Space Telescope photos:

Brief NASA video about the magnetosphere of Jupiter and why we continue to be interested in it (2 min):

Quick NASA video of the hexagon in Saturn’s polar region, with exaggerated color, at:

Jupiter, the Largest Planet: Produced by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Science on a Sphere. (7:29):

Cassini: 15 Years of Exploration: Quick visual summary of mission highlights (2:29):

Voyager 2 at Neptune: "Voyager's Last Encounter" 1989 NASA JPL video (3.5 minutes) with results and quotes by mission scientists:


Chapter 12: Rings, Moons, and Pluto


A short film with planetary scientist Kevin Hand explains why Europa is so interesting for future exploration (4 min):

360 Degrees of Io: A brief movie showing a rotating Io with its dramatic surface features (25 sec):

Titan Approach Movie: film from the images taken by Cassini and Huygens (3 min):  

Flyover of Titan’s Northern Lakes district (from Cassini images; 2 min):

A very brief movie showing the two shepherd moons on either side of Saturn’s F ring:

Amazing Moons (2016, 5-min NASA video on intriguing moons in our solar system):

Briny Breath of Enceladus (2009 brief JPL film on the geysers of Enceladus; 2.5 min):

Dr. Carolyn Porco’s TED Talk on Enceladus (3 min):

Titan (8 min video from Open University, with interviews, animations, images):

Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart (2016 dramatic New York Times production, narrated by Dennis Overbye, 7 min.):

Charon brief flyover video:

Chaotic rotation of Pluto’s moons (amination, 1 min):

Pluto Flyover Movie (NASA, 1 min 35 sec, along that big strip, labels but no sound, very effective):

Pluto approach and close up movie (July 2016):


Chapter 13: Comets and Asteroids


Animated video showing the orbits of 100,000 asteroids found by one sky survey (3 min):

Dawn mission animated “flyover” of Vesta:

Dawn mission animated “flyover” of Ceres:

Video compilation of the Chelyabinsk meteor streaking through the sky over the city on February 15, 2013:

Why Are We Seeing So Many Sungrazing Comets? (brief NASA video):

Rosetta’s Moment in the Sun: Close-up images of a comet generating plumes of gas and dust as it nears the Sun; discusses dangers an active comet poses for the spacecraft (3 min):

60 Minutes TV segment on Asteroid Impacts (Cosmic Roulette; 2013; 13 min):

Collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter (short discussion and animation from the TV documentary series Universe): 


Chapter 14: Meteors, Meteorites and the Origin of the Solar System


How to Observe Meteor Showers (California Academy of Sciences’ friendly, animated, short:

ALMA’s ground-breaking observations of HL Tau and what they reveal about plant formation (European Southern Observatory videocast):

Meteorites and Meteor-wrongs (7 min video with Dr. Randy Korotev of Washington U. in St. Louis):

Top Tips for Watching Meteor Showers (3 min; from the At-Bristol Science Center):

Origins of the Solar System (13-min video from Nova ScienceNow narrated by Neil Tyson):

Kepler Orrery with stars with multiple planets: 


Chapter 15: The Sun’s Structure, Solar Activity, and Space Weather


The “boiling” action of granulation: 30-second time-lapse video from the Swedish Institute for Solar Physics:

NASA video explaining and demonstrating the nature of the aurora and their relationship to Earth’s magnetic field:

Overview and introduction to the Sun by science reporter Dennis Overbye of the NY Times (3 min):

What Happens on the Sun Doesn’t Stay on the Sun (from the Nat’l Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; 5-min. introduction to the Sun, space weather, its effects, and how we monitor it):

Sun Storms (a 5-min video from the Starry Night company about storms from the Sun now and in the past):

Journey into the Sun (2010 KQED Quest TV Program, 12 min, mostly about the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, its launch and capabilities, but with good general information on how the Sun works):

Space Weather Impacts Videos from the National Weather Service and NOAA (four short videos): -- also on YouTube at:

NASA Goddard video of 3 years of observations of the Sun by the Solar Dynamics Observatory made into a speeded up movie, with commentary by solar physicist Alex Young; 5 min):  

Sunspot Group AR 2339 Crosses the Sun is a short video (with music) animates Solar Dynamics Observatory images of an especially large sunspot group going across the Sun’s face (1 min 14 sec):

 Space Weather: Storms on the Sun: (7-minute science bulletin from the American Museum of Natural History, giving the background to what happens on the Sun to cause space weather):


Chapter 16: The Sun: A Nuclear Powerhouse


Neutrinos: Nature’s Identity Thieves (6-min Fermilab Video with Don Lincoln; with story of Raymond Davis’ experiment):

How Does Fusion Power the Sun (2-min Science channel video with Michelle Thaller and Lawrence Krauss):


Chapter 17: Analyzing Starlight (Brightness, Color, and Spectra)


The Effect of Proper Motion on the Appearance of the Big Dipper over 200,000 years (9 sec):

Understanding the Magnitude System for Stars (5-min video with Robert Fuller):

WISE Mission Shows Local Brown Dwarfs are Rarer than We Thought (1.3-min report from JPL narrated by Davy Kirkpatrick):


Chapter 18: The Stars (Mass, Diameter, and the H-R Diagram)


Let’s Talk About Size (3-min animation comparing the sizes of planets and stars, showing some of the extremes of star diameters):

The Nearest Stars (a 2-min excerpt from TV’s The Big Bang Theory, where Sheldon goes down the apartment-building stairs while reciting the closest stars in order):


Chapter 19: Celestial Distances


Introduction to the Gaia Mission (19 min, Cambridge University; describes the Gaia mission and what scientists hope to learn):

Hipparcos: Route Map to the Stars (15 min ESA video; describes the mission to measure parallax and its results):

How Big is the Universe (a 6-minute video with astronomer Pete Edwards from the British Institute of Physics; with a step by step introduction to the concepts of distances):

Measuring Large Distances Using Triangulation (on Earth and in astronomy; 3-min video which sets out the basic trigonometry; it’s not a visually dramatic video, but the narration in a nice British accent is helpful):


Chapter 20: Between the Stars: Interstellar Matter


Cosmic Soccer Balls: Fullerenes, Buckyballs, or Buckminsterfullerenes (2-min video from JPL explains what they are and illustrates how they were discovered in space):

Space Station Live: Cosmic Ray Detector for ISS (7-min NASA video about the Calorimetric Electron Telescope mission, a cosmic ray detector at the International Space Station):

Barnard 68: (3-min video about this dark cloud and dark clouds in interstellar space in general)

Hubblecast 65: The Horsehead Nebula Seen in Infrared (6-min report on nebulae in general and about the Horsehead specifically, with ESO astronomer Joe Liske): (

The Horsehead Nebula in New Light (a 3-minute tour of the dark nebula in different wavelengths; no audio narration, just music, but explanatory material appears on the screen):

Interstellar Reddening (4-min video demonstrating how reddening works, with Scott Miller of Penn State; a bit nerdy but useful):

Molecules in Space (Astronomer Anthony Remijan explains how ALMA is used to find molecules in the interstellar medium):


Chapter 21: Birth of Stars and Discovery of Exoplanets


A Star Is Born (2.5-min Discovery Channel video with astronomer Michelle Thaller):

Observations of HL Tau (The director of NRAO describes the high-resolution observations of the young star HL Tau; with nice artist’s animation of a protoplanetary disk):

Narrated tour of the Orion Nebula region (4 min Hubble video):

Animation of the stars in the Omega Centauri cluster as they rearrange according to luminosity and temperature, forming an H–R diagram:

Kepler Mission Orrery with stars with multiple planets:

Sara Seeger 2015 TED Talk on exoplanets and how to find out about them (16 min):

ESOCast: 20 Years of Exploring Exoplanets (8 min, 2015 narrated video, explains different methods, but very ESO-centric):


Chapter 22: Stellar Evolution from Main Sequence to Red Giants (plus Star Clusters)


Evolution of Stars in a Dwarf Galaxy (1-min ESO animation traces how stars evolve with time on the H-R diagram):

H–R diagram for globular cluster Omega Centauri (1.5 min ESA animation of how the stars on a Hubble image are plotted and related to stellar evolution):

Three Short Hubblecast Videos from 2007-2008 on discoveries involving star clusters:

A Tour of Planetary Nebula NGC 5189 (5-min Hubblecast episode with Joe Liske, explaining planetary nebulae in general and one example in particular):

The Life Cycle of Stars (5-min summary of stellar evolution from the Institute of Physics in Great Britain, with astronomer Tim O’Brien):

NASA Missions Take an Unparalleled Look into Superstar Eta Carinae (4-min NASA Goddard video about observations in 2014 and what we know about the pair of stars in this complicated system):


Chapter 23: Death of Stars (White Dwarfs, Supernovae, Neutron Stars, Pulsars, Gamma-ray Bursts)


Supernova SN 2014J, a Type Ia supernova discovered in M82 with brief animations of the two mechanisms by which such a supernova could form (3 min; Chandra telescope):

Supernova 1987A ESO Zoom Movie (flying into the LMC and toward the remnant; 1 min):

Supernova 1987A: Quick Time-lapse Movie of the ring around it lighting up:

Dr. Scott Ransom, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, explains how millisecond pulsars come about, with some nice animation (1.5 min):

NASA video showing the location of the first 500 bursts found by the Swift satellite (1 min):

It All Ends with a Bang (HubbleCast program introducing Supernovae; with Dr. Joe Liske; 10 min):

Shocking Secrets of the Crab Pulsar (A sequence of Hubble and Chandra Space Telescope images of the central regions of the Crab Nebula assembled into a very brief movie accompanied by animation showing how the pulsar affects its environment):

American Museum of Natural History Science Bulletin: “Gamma-Ray Bursts: Flashes in the Sky” (6 min introduction focusing on the Swift satellite):

Brief Animation of What Causes a Long-Duration Gamma-ray Burst (1 min):


Chapter 24: Black Holes and General Relativity (and Gravitational Waves)


Aboard NASA’s Vomit Comet (How NASA uses a “weightless” environment to help train astronauts; 8 min):

Astronaut Karen Nyberg demonstrates to Sandra Bullock how aboard the ISS, she can propel herself with the force of a single human hair (2 min):

Death by Black Hole (Neil deGrasse Tyson, on stage, with only his hands, explains spaghettification in 6 min):

Falling into a Black Hole & Spaghettification (5 min dramatic excerpt from a Discovery Channel video with L. Krauss, P. Plait, M. Kaku):

Black Holes Explained Very Simply for a Family Audience (5-min video with Andrew Fraknoi, one of the senior authors of our textbook):


Gravitational Waves:

Journey of a Gravitational Wave (Introduction from LIGO at Caltech; 2:55):

LIGO’s First Detection of Gravitational Waves (Explanation and animations from PBS Digital Studio; 9:31):

Two Black Holes Merge into One (Simulation from LIGO Caltech; 0:35):  

What the Discovery of Gravitational Waves Means (TED Talk by Allan Adams; 10:58):


Chapter 25: The Milky Way Galaxy


Stars Orbiting the Central BH in Milky Way (Andrea Ghez data, 1996-2010, 11 sec animation):

Andrea Ghez 2009 TED talk on searching for supermassive BHs, particularly the one at the center of the Milky Way (16 min):

Journey to the Galactic Center (A brief silent trip into the cluster of stars near the galactic center showing their motions around the center; 3 min):  

Diner at the Center of the Galaxy (NASA ScienceCast of NuSTAR observations of flares from our Galaxy’s central black hole; 3 min):

Crash of the Titans (2012 Hubblecast featuring Jay Anderson and Roeland van der Marel explaining how Andromeda will collide with the Milky Way in the distant future; 5 min):

Spitzer Space Telescope Panorama of the Milky Way Galaxy in the Infrared (3 min):


Chapter 26: Galaxies


Edwin Hubble (Hubblecast Episode #89; 6 min):

Galaxies: An Introduction (A compilation of several short European videos that first describe galaxies in general and then focus on galaxies in Hubble telescope images; 13 min):

Hubble’s Revolution (brief Discovery Channel show excerpt about Hubble’s work and Hubble’s Law, with Lawrence Krauss; 3 min):

How Many Galaxies Are There in the Universe (HubbleCast #96 from Oct. 2016 on recent counts of galaxies on deep fields; 6 min):


Chapter 27: Active Galaxies, Quasars, and Supermassive Black Holes


Matter Accreting Around a Supermassive Black Hole (animation from Hubble; 30 sec):

Merging Galaxies Create Active Galactic Nuclei (NASA animation; 1.5 min):

Tour of Black Hole Seeds in the Early Universe (news from Chandra Observatory; 3 min):

Hubble and Black Holes (HubbleCast #43; with Dr. Joe Liske on how Hubble is used to measure the mass of supermassive black holes and their evolution; 9 min):

2011 ESOCast (5 min) on the discovery of the most distant quasar:


Chapter 28: Evolution and Distribution of Galaxies


A Flight through the Universe (from the Sloan Digital Survey; 2-min animation of moving through the galaxies it cataloged):

How to Find a Galaxy (short NOVA excerpt on how Geller and Huchra mapped the location of many galaxies; 4 min):

Gravitational Lensing (clear explanation from Fermilab, with Dr. Don Lincoln; 7:14):

Hubble Extreme Deep Field Pushes Back Frontiers of Time and Space (2012 video about surveying distant and early galaxies; 2:42):  

Looking Deeply into the Universe in 3-D (2015 ESOCast video #72, about using the VLT to explore galaxies in the Hubble Deep Field South; 5 min):

When Two Galaxies Collide (Computer simulation, which stops at various points and shows a Hubble image of just such a system in nature (1:37):

A Virtual Universe (Nature video on an MIT model of a section of universe evolving, with dark matter included: 4:11):


Chapter 29: The Big Bang


Video excerpt about the work of LeMaitre (6 min):

Three Degrees, a 26-min video from Bell Labs about Penzias and Wilson’s discovery of the cosmic background radiation, with interesting historical footage (while this is longer than our time limit for short videos, you can show excerpts): 

Planck Maps the Dawn of Time (12 min EuroNews summary of the work of the Planck mission, featuring interviews with key scientists):

When Speed Matters (ESOCast #40: The Discovery of the Acceleration of the Expansion of the Universe; 7 min):

The Acceleration of the Universe (Dr. Sean Carroll of Caltech explains the acceleration with cartoons in 2 minutes):

Alan Guth Explains Inflation at the Beginning of Time (3-min video from World Science Festival):

Richard Dawkins Explains the Anthropic Principle (in its various versions; part of a 2009 lecture; 4 min):


Chapter 30: Life in the Universe


The Fermi Paradox (Where are all the aliens? – two cartoon summaries of the problem and proposed solutions; 6 min each): and

Making Matter Come Alive (15-min 2011 TED talk by inorganic chemist Lee Cronin on the origin of life):

Hubble Detects a Water Plume on Europa (2 min, 2016 NASA News):

Geysers on Enceladus: Cold Faithful (3 min JPL/NASA video with Dr. Torrence Johnson on the Cassini discovery of water geysers coming from Saturn’s moon):

Jill Tarter TED Talk (Feb 2009 talk on SETI; 21 min – a bit longer than our limit, but worth showing excerpts from):

Breakthrough: Listen Initiative Launch Highlights (July 2015, Yuri Milner is donating $100 million over 10 years to ramp up several approaches to SETI; features Stephen Hawking, Frank Drake, and others; 5 min):

Return to top