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Tag Archives: education

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


Mission Juno website hosts a wealth of Jupiter resources, including news, discussions, images, movies, and explanatory animations about the mission, its science goals and what we know about the Solar System’s largest planet. A special feature is a series of 9 short movies from Bill Nye “the Science Guy”!

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

See the Mission Juno website from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) is one of the most ambitious and influential surveys in the history of astronomy. Over eight years of operations it has obtained deep, multi-color images covering more than a quarter of the sky and created 3-dimensional maps containing more than 930,000 galaxies and more than 120,000 quasars.

Credit: Sloan Digital Sky Survey

The education team at SDSS have prepared a variety of astronomical resources, interactive tools, and science projects, for teachers and educators to use. They aim to show us the beauty of the Universe, and share with us their excitement as they build the largest map in the history of the world!

SkyServer‘s tools allow you to access all publicly available data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. It offers access to many different types of data, but most users will usually focus on four types: images, spectra, photometric data, and spectroscopic data. See their ‘Getting Started‘ page for more details.

Their projects pages come in both Basic (suitable for high-school and Astronomy 101-level students) and Advanced (for students with a deeper understanding of astronomy) levels.  There are also ideas for extended independent research projects.

Instructor guides are also available.

A new annotated guide to written, web, and audio-visual resources for teaching and learning about planets orbiting other stars has been released.  Materials in the guide to this rapidly-changing branch of astronomy include video and audio files of lectures and interviews with leading scientists in the field, phone and tablet apps, a citizen-science web site, popular-level books and articles, and more.

Published by the NASA Astrophysics Education and Outreach Forum and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the guide can also be found as a PDF file. Find out more here:

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.

From the International Astronomical Union’s Newsletter of the Commission 46 on the Teaching of Astronomy (coauthor Pasachoff was president of the Commission):  An article in the American Journal of Physics, June 2013 (V81, pp. 414-420) describes a useful set of programs that illustrate techniques of analysis in modern cosmology, allowing students to “discover” the acceleration of the Universe. The authors are Jacob Moldenhauer, Larry Engelhardt, Keenan M. Stone, and Ezekiel Shuler from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Francis Marion University, Florence, South Carolina, USA. Here is the abstract of the article: “We present a collection of new, open-source computational tools for numerically modeling recent large-scale observational data sets using modem cosmology theory. These tools allow both students and researchers to constrain the parameter values in competitive cosmological models, thereby discovering both the accelerated expansion of the universe and its composition (e.g., dark matter and dark energy). These programs have several features to help the non-cosmologist build an understanding of cosmological models and their relation to observational data, including a built-in collection of several real observational data sets. The current list of built-in observations includes several recent supernovae Type-Ia surveys, baryon acoustic oscillations, the cosmic microwave background radiation, gamma-ray bursts, and measurements of the Hubble parameter. In this article, we discuss specific results for testing cosmological models using these observational data.”

The software described in the article, called CosmoEJS, is freely available online from ComPADRE.