The Hands-On Universe (HOU) project, based at Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, provides materials for middle school and high school students that enable them to (a) use image processing software to analyze previously collected and prepared observations from the HOU telescope network and (b) participate in current student astronomy research projects, downloading requested observations via the Internet through a network of telescopes and analyze them with image processing software.
There are strong links between HOU and amateur astronomy. See the Kepler Amateur Astronomy page for online resources for exoplanet-finding projects.
The investigations on this page are from the HOU high school curriculum book A Changing Cosmos, which is now available part of the Global Systems Science curriculum series (http:/www.lawrencehallofscience.org/gss). They may be reproduced for nonprofit educational use.
Below are two sample investigations from the latest revision of HOU high school curriculum, A Changing Cosmos, based on material developed by TERC (a non-profit education institute in Boston, MA), both of which require HOU Image Processing software:
- Tracking Jupiter's Moons
- Investigation - 260 kb PDF (PDF, 296 KB) — students use image processing software to analyze observatory images of Jupiter and its moons. Students determine the relationship of orbital radius and period, then use Newton's and Kepler's laws to compute the mass of Jupiter.
- Get Image Processing software HOU IP 2.0
- Download Jupiter's Moons FITS image set required for this investigation. ALERT: As better and better HOU Jupiter images become available, the download set link here may differ from what's written in the investigation write-up in terms of filenames and even number of images available.
- See also TRIAL FOSS ACTIVITY: Orbits of Jupiter's Moons and Kepler's 3rd Law (PDF, 300 KB) (grades 8-12) — Students use a series of 19 images of Jupiter’s 4 Galilean moons to find their orbit periods and orbit radii. They compare their results with known data for those moons. Finally they test various mathematical expressions to find a “constant” relationship between orbit period (T) and orbit radius (R) to arrive at Kepler’s 3rd Law.
- Exoplanet Transits
- Investigation Write-up (PDF, 620 KB) - Students use telescope images, image processing software, and data from the Internet to determine the size and orbital period of an exoplanet. It also includes ideas mining data on transits of short-period giant planets and eclipsing binary stars.
- Get Image Processing software SalsaJ or HOU IP 2.0.
- Best FITS images available for Exoplanet Transits investigation, as of January 2010, are at the MicroObservatory site: http://mo-www.harvard.edu/MicroObservatory/. Look under "Get Images", "Image Archive Directory", listings beginning with "Other Worlds."
The latest revision of HOU middle school work is now called Solar System Science, and also requires/allows students to use image processing software available on Global Systems Science (GSS) software download page.
HOU and TransitSearch.org
HOU collaborates with Transitsearch.org, which helps amateur astronomers to properly configure telescopes for reliably detecting exoplanet transits--the periodic dimming that occurs when a close-in giant planet passes in front of its parent star as seen from Earth. In 2007, Transitsearch.org participants discovered that the planet HD 17156 b transits its parent star with a three-week orbital period, at that time by far the longest-period transiting planet discovered. More recently, in February 2009, Transitsearch.org observers participated in the discovery of the transit of HD 80606 b, an unusual world that has by far the longest orbital period of any known transiting planet, and is a prime target for follow-up by large telescopes from ground and space.
High school astronomy teachers and students, like amateur astronomers with small-telescope observers will have the opportunity to make cutting-edge contributions to exoplanet research.
See the Kepler Amateur Astronomy page for an excellent listing of exoplanet-finding resources.
The Kepler team supports amateur efforts through data made publicly available through MAST (Multimission Archive at STScI - http://archive.stsci.edu/kepler/)
In 2003, HOU concluded a NSF-funded research project to determine the effectiveness of professional development by distance learning versus live workshops. Results of this research helps guide effective dissemination strategies not only for HOU, but inform other programs through LHS-HOU involvement in the NASA Origins Education Forum. The research conclusions indicate that distance learning is a viable strategy for teacher education, when effectiveness is measured by achievement of students of those teachers. HOU is also engaged in NSF-funded project to create a remote telescope museum exhibit, the Real Astronomy Experience (RAE). Front-end, formative, and summative evaluation for HOU Kepler EPO is being done by LHS Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA) team.
Impact: Availability of the revised HOU module is announced to the approximately 700 HOU teachers around the country, and is intrinsically available in the HOU high school curriculum materials through HOU teacher workshops and for purchase through the HOU website. As of Fall 2008, A Changing Cosmos is being marketed as part of Global Systems Science as a CD-ROM included with the high school science text Global Science, by John Christensen, published by Kendall/Hunt.