Wien, August 2018

New Trends in Teaching Astronomy: One day Workshop on Education in Astronomy and Astrobiology, Vienna, Austria (Aug 19, 2018)

Poster presentation by T. Sato

Title: Making physical measurements from student’s own images

Abstract: Observational astronomy is a quantitative endeavour in which scientists record and analyse data such as images or spectra.  Yet, at public events at observatories, we are often asked “where do you look through?” This demonstrates a gap between the astronomer’s work and the public’s perception of astronomers.  The survey course for non-science majors at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Canada, attempts to bridge this gap, in part, by providing opportunities for students to experience their own scientific process of taking data and analysing them for quantitative results. Two lab activities that involve working with images are described here.
In the parallax activity, students take photographs of a ball from two different locations.  The ball represents a distant star and the two locations represent the Earth’s motion along its orbit.  The images are analysed for parallactic shift against background objects, and ultimately, students work out the distance to the “star”.
Later in the course, students observe the Moon using 8-inch telescopes with webcam adapted cameras to record image frames, which are combined to make a lunar mosaic. Crater and maria sizes are measured from the mosaic in kilometres and compared to sizes of Earth features.  Students also work through the logistical steps of telescope time assignment, scheduling and weather.
Both lab activities take students out of the laboratory for active engagement and demonstrate the idea that systematic analysis of image data can yield scientific measurements.