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Category Archives: 01. A grand tour of the heavens

Author Alex Filippenko’s recent talk “Discovering Our Celestial Connections: New data on Exploding Stars, Exoplanets, and Black Holes from UC’s Lick Observatory”, recorded at LinkedIn headquarters, is available to view below or here (approx. 1 hr 27 minutes).


One of the key goals of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is to make its discoveries and missions accessible to a wide range of educators, students, and the public. The working group has commissioned two annotated resource guides from veteran astronomy and space-science educator Andrew Fraknoi (Foothill College) that address these two issues. One examines the contributions to astronomy by cultures outside of Europe and the U.S mainstream. The other looks at the contributions of women to astronomy, plus the barriers women have faced and the progress they have made in becoming equal partners in the enterprise of astronomical research.

The two guides include material that can be used by instructors to make lectures and class activities more inclusive, as well as readings and videos that students can use for projects and papers. The materials are mostly non-technical, so they can be used by a wide range of non-science students taking general education courses in the sciences, including those in public community and state colleges, where many future K-12 teachers begin their education.

Instructors and professors who teach such courses often don’t receive much training in taking a multi-cultural perspective and sometimes don’t have many role models who are not white males. These resource guides will allow them to highlight more of the contributions of women and underserved minorities in their classrooms.

This work was led by the Heliophysics Forum (formerly the Sun-Earth Connection Forum), co-led by Multiverse (formerly the Center for Science Education) at the Space Sciences Lab at the University of California at Berkeley.

Links: Unheard Voices part 1: The Astronomy of Many Cultures; Unheard Voices part 2: Women in Astronomy

Stream or listen to the podcast of the most recent Planetary Radio show from The Planetary Society to hear authors Jay M. Pasachoff and Alex Filippenko talk about “The Cosmos”, Fourth Edition, among other topics.


Links: Planetary Radio show, January 21, 2014.

From the International Astronomical Union’s Newsletter of the Commission 46 on the Teaching of Astronomy (coauthor Jay M. Pasachoff was president of the Commission):
Anja C. Andersen (Dark Cosmology Centre, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen) notes the following resource that may be of interest to astronomy educators. “Studynova is a project by Canadian Mitch Campbell. There, students can find hundreds of videos on the subjects of mathematics and physics. There are three topics in particular that are of interest to astronomy students. First, under ‘physics’, is a set of 48 videos on astrophysics. These are relevant for high school and introductory university students, and are an overview of common astrophysics topics (including stellar properties, HR diagrams, calculating distances, cosmology, etc). Second, also under ‘physics’, is a set of 23 videos called ‘Astrophysics extra’. These feature additional material for high school and introductory university students, such as calculating the mass of a black hole, rotation curves and lensing as evidence for dark matter. There are also videos on exoplanet detection techniques (Doppler method in more detail – estimating orbital radius, mass, surface temperature). Last is a set of 28 videos under ‘Astrobiology’. This is an introduction to astrobiology, and is at a more basic level (no mathematics). These feature topics such as the history of life on Earth, habitable zone, abiogenesis, panspermia, Urey Miller experiment, searching in our own solar system, exoplanets, SETI, aliens and UFOs.”
Another resource is the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures, featuring astronomers giving non-technical lectures on recent developments in astronomy, which are now available on their own YouTube Channel, at:
The lectures were taped at Foothill College near San Francisco and co-sponsored by NASA’s Ames Research Center, the SETI Institute, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. The speakers include coauthor, Alex Filippenko, talking about black holes.