Robotic Telescopes in Education [CL]

The power of robotic telescopes to transform science education has been voiced by multiple sources, since the 1980s. Since then, much technical progress has been made in robotic telescope provision to end users via a variety of different approaches. The educational transformation hoped for by the provision of this technology has, so far, yet to be achieved on a scale matching the technical advancements. In this paper, the history, definition, role and rationale of optical robotic telescopes with a focus on their use in education is provided. The current telescope access providers and educational projects and their broad uses in traditional schooling, undergraduate and outreach are then outlined. From this background, the current challenges to the field, which are numerous, are then presented. This review is concluded with a series of recommendations for current and future projects that are apparent and have emerged from the literature.

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E. Gomez and M. Fitzgerald
Fri, 17 Feb 17

Comments: 42 pages, 16 figures, 2 tables

Street lights as standard candles: A student activity for understanding astronomical distance measurements [CL]

Astronomers measure cosmic distances to objects beyond our own galaxy using standard candles: objects of known intrinsic brightness, whose apparent brightnesses in the sky are then taken as an indication of their distances from the observer. In this activity, we use street lights and a digital camera to explore the method of standard candles as well as some of its limitations and possible sources of error.

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M. Possel
Thu, 9 Feb 17

Comments: 7 pages, 7 figures

Strangeon and Strangeon Star [HEAP]

The nature of pulsar-like compact stars is essentially a central question of the fundamental strong interaction (explained in quantum chromo-dynamics) at low energy scale, the solution of which still remains a challenge though tremendous efforts have been tried. This kind of compact objects could actually be strange quark stars if strange quark matter in bulk may constitute the true ground state of the strong-interaction matter rather than Fe^56 (the so-called Witten’s conjecture). From astrophysical points of view, however, it is proposed that strange cluster matter could be absolutely stable and thus those compact stars could be strange cluster stars in fact. This proposal could be regarded as a general Witten’s conjecture: strange matter in bulk could be absolutely stable, in which quarks are either free (for strange quark matter) or localized (for strange cluster matter). Strange cluster with three-light-flavor symmetry is renamed strangeon, being coined by combining “strange nucleon” for the sake of simplicity. A strangeon star can then be thought as a 3-flavored gigantic nucleus, and strangeons are its constituent as an analogy of nucleons which are the constituent of a normal (micro) nucleus. The observational consequences of strangeon stars show that different manifestations of pulsar-like compact stars could be understood in the regime of strangeon stars.

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X. Lai and R. Xu
Tue, 31 Jan 17

Comments: Proceedings CSQCD5, 23-27 May 2016 GSSI and LNGS (L’Aquila, Italy)

Teaching the Doppler Effect in Astrophysics [CL]

The Doppler effect is a shift in the frequency of waves emitted from an object moving relative to the observer. By observing and analysing the Doppler shift in electromagnetic waves from astronomical objects, astronomers gain greater insight into the structure and operation of our universe. In this paper, a simple technique is described for teaching the basics of the Doppler effect to undergraduate astrophysics students using acoustic waves. An advantage of the technique is that it produces a visual representation of the acoustic Doppler shift. The equipment comprises a 40 kHz acoustic transmitter and a microphone. The sound is bounced off a computer fan and the signal collected by a DrDAQ ADC and processed by a spectrum analyser. Widening of the spectrum is observed as the fan power supply potential is increased from 4 to 12 V.

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S. Hughes and M. Cowley
Wed, 18 Jan 17

Comments: 9 pages, 5 figures, published in Eur. J. Phys

Training telescope operators and support astronomers at Paranal [IMA]

The operations model of the Paranal Observatory relies on the work of efficient staff to carry out all the daytime and nighttime tasks. This is highly dependent on adequate training. The Paranal Science Operations department (PSO) has a training group that devises a well-defined and continuously evolving training plan for new staff, in addition to broadening and reinforcing courses for the whole department. This paper presents the training activities for and by PSO, including recent astronomical and quality control training for operators, as well as adaptive optics and interferometry training of all staff. We also present some future plans.

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H. Boffin, D. Gadotti, J. Anderson, et. al.
Tue, 26 Jul 16

Comments: Paper 9910-123 presented at SPIE 2016

Sustaining educational and public outreach programs in astronomy [CL]

We advocate meaningful support of sustained education-outreach partnerships between regional metropolitan undergraduate institutions and astronomical clubs and societies. We present our experience as an example, in which we have grown a partnership between the University of Michigan-Dearborn (hereafter UM-D, a 4-year primarily undergraduate institution or PUI), Henry Ford College (hereafter HFC, a 2-year undergraduate college), and maintained a strong collaboration with the Ford Amateur Astronomy Club (FAAC), which is highly active in the Detroit Metropolitan Area. By allowing each organization to play to its strengths, we have developed a continuum of education-outreach efforts at all levels, with connecting tissue between the previously disparate efforts. To-date, faculty and staff effort on these initiatives has been nearly entirely voluntary and somewhat ad-hoc. Here we suggest an initiative to sustain the continuum of education-outreach for the long-term. There are two levels to the suggested initiative. Firstly, partner institutions should dedicate at least half an FTE of faculty or staff effort specifically to education and outreach development. Secondly, professional societies like the AAS now have a great opportunity to support the education-outreach continuum at a national level, by facilitating communication between institutions and clubs that are considering a long-term partnership, by acting as a central resource for such partnerships, and possibly by convening or sponsoring events such as professional meetings among the metropolitan educational community.

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W. Clarkson, D. Bord, C. Swift, et. al.
Thu, 16 Jun 16

Comments: 3 pages, Whitepaper submitted to the American Astronomical Society Education Task Force, June 2016

The Importance of Computation in Astronomy Education [CL]

Computational skills are required across all astronomy disciplines. Many students enter degree programs without sufficient skills to solve computational problems in their core classes or contribute immediately to research. We recommend advocacy for computational literacy, familiarity with fundamental software carpentry skills, and mastery of basic numerical methods by the completion of an undergraduate degree in Astronomy.
We recommend the AAS Education Task Force advocate for a significant increase in computational literacy.
We encourage the AAS to modestly fund efforts aimed at providing Open Education Resources (OER) that will significantly impact computational literacy in astronomy education.

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M. Zingale, F. Timmes, R. Fisher, et. al.
Wed, 8 Jun 16

Comments: white paper submitted to the AAS Education Taskforce call (this https URL)