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You will notice that this month's Starry Night® Times is a newsletter on a mission: Education.
In these days of ever-tightening school budgets and increasing accountability, science can fall by the wayside in many schools. This is a tragedy. We need scientists more than ever, and so we need science teachers. Giving students an appreciation of how much we know about the universe and more importantly how much is left to learn can inspire a budding scientist like nothing else on Earth.
If you're a passionate amateur astronomer, then I'm betting you spend a fair bit of your time trying to bring new people, young and old, into the hobby. Astronomy Day is a great focal point for getting our story out, and hooking new “star explorers”. See Geoff Gaherty's article for ideas on how to make the most of this once-a-year opportunity for outreach.
And if you are a teacher, especially an astronomy teacher, we know you have particular challenges: day time classes, night time stars; new discoveries and breakthroughs; and the difficulty of visualizing the movement of the cosmos from our small corner of the Universe, to name just a few.
We're here to help. Starry Night® is one of the most powerful educational tools available. Giving teachers and students a way to visualize and manipulate the amazing, complex systems that make up our Universe has revolutionized how earth and space science can be taught.
This year, as in the past, Starry Night® will be attending the annual National Science Teachers Association Conference in Anaheim, CA, April 6-8. Stop by Booth #1116, or attend any one of our 9 workshops. Connect with other educators and discover the strategies that keep students motivated to learn about science while meeting “No Child Left Behind” standards.
Starry Night® Middle School, High School and our growing library of DVD and interactive resources are receiving enthusiastic accolades worldwide. We'd love to see you at one of our workshops to share new lesson plans and help you use Starry Night® more effectively in the classroom.
At Imaginova we are passionate about science. Intellectual curiosity and a general love of learning are pervasive here; it makes it a great place to work. I hope you enjoy this month's Starry Night® Times as much as we enjoy making it.
Stop by Starry Night® Booth #1116 and enter to win a telescope, Starry Night® software and DVD library, valued at $1000!
Click here for details on how to register for NSTA Convention in Anaheim, CA.
Attend any workshop and receive a FREE Big Dipper clock!
See below for descriptions on the workshops.
April 06, 2006
Starry Night's innovative new astronomy education packages integrate hands-on and computer activities to provide complete learning experiences. Learn how to use Starry Night® Middle School software to meet the needs of a variety of learners as they address the standards in the Earth and Space strand of the grades 68 curriculum. Explore the use of telescopes to extend the reach of Starry Night®. Each participant will receive a free 10-day trial of Starry Night®!
April 06, 2006
Are you interested in astronomy, birding, or both? Explore the latest in telescope technology with the experts from Orion®! Learn how to select the right telescope for your needs in this informative workshop. We'll discuss the advantages of different types of telescopes, including computerized models that will help you find thousands of objects in the sky with the push of a button!
April 06, 2006
Science assessment tests, as required by No Child Left Behind, are just around the corner. Starry Night® high School, an innovative astronomy curriculum that integrates computer exercises and hands-on activities, will help your students master complex astronomy concepts. Correlated to national and state standards, each lesson plan is carefully constructed to provide clear explanations and demonstrations of key concepts. Learn the instructional strategies that will keep your students motivated to learn about the universe while having fun.
April 06, 2006
Your students' knowledge of the universe and science assessment scores will be out-of-this-world with the help of Starry Night® Middle School. Specifically developed to meet national and state space science standards, Starry Night's hands-on activities and computer exercises have been tested in classrooms and have been proven to increase your students' comprehension of the inner workings of the universe. The combination of detailed lesson plans and visually rich, scientifically accurate computer models will keep your students motivated to learn more.
April 06, 2006
Eclipses are among the most awesome spectacles in nature. Join the Starry Night® classroom for an exploration of the mechanics of eclipses and learn how to introduce the topic to your class. With the aid of Starry Night® software, see eclipses far into the future and re-create eclipses of the distant past.
April 08, 2006
Come experience the Starry Night® classroom. Easily address the learning outcomes of the Earth and Space strand of the grade 9-12 curriculum using the award-winning Starry Night® High School curricula from Imaginova. The comprehensive teacher guide integrates hands-on and computer activities and includes correlations, assessments, resources, and career information. Trial software will be provided along with a demonstration of several telescopes that can be controlled with Starry Night® High School software.
April 08, 2006
Explore the solar system through the "eyes and ears" of interplanetary spacecraft. Join the Starry Night® classroom and relive some of the spectacular views seen by these spacecraft as we trace out their paths through the solar system with the aid of Starry Night® software.
April 08, 2006
Is Pluto a planet? The recent discovery of minor planet Xena an object larger than Pluto has cast new doubt on the status of the solar systems smallest planet. Join the Starry Night® classroom as we explore why Pluto is such an oddball. What other yet undiscovered 'planets' are out there?
April 08, 2006
Take a journey from your backyard to the furthest reaches of the universe. Join the Starry Night® classroom and explore the size and scale of the Universe. For students, grasping the distances of objects can be difficult to grasp, but with Starry Night®, they can fly to the Moon, through the Solar System, and out of our Galaxy. Every journey begins with a single step.
Astronomers, both amateur and professional, love sharing their passion for astronomy with the public. Observatories hold open houses, astronomy clubs hold star parties, but most of these events happen at fairly remote sites, where it’s often hard to entice the casual visitor to attend. In 1973, Doug Berger in Northern California organized the first Astronomy Day with the idea of bringing astronomy to the public, rather than expecting the public to come to it. Events were held in city parking lots, shopping malls, anywhere people gathered. The idea quickly caught on, and Astronomy Day is now celebrated around the globe.
Geoff Gaherty, at left, showing the Sun with his 120mm refractor at the RASC Toronto Centre’s Astronomy Day event at the Ontario Science Centre in April 2004.
Astronomy Day takes place on the Saturday closest to First Quarter Moon between mid April and mid-May; this year Astronomy Day is on Saturday, May 6.
Why AprilMay? Because from most places, it’s a pleasant time of year for outdoor activities. Certainly, at the mid-northern latitude where I live, it’s too cold any earlier.
Why first quarter Moon? Because the cratered surface of the Moon offers the most spectacular views. Keen amateur astronomers may enjoy hunting down faint fuzzies when the Moon is not visible, but someone who has never looked through a telescope before will have a hard time seeing even a bright fuzzy, especially from an urban light polluted location!
The planets are also popular targets, and we’ve got the best of the bunch, Saturn, well placed in our evening sky. Many Astronomy Day events take place during the day, when safe solar observing can be done.
How do you find out about Astronomy Day events? Gary Tomlinson of the Astronomical League maintains a web site summarizing all events for this year. If you want to organize an event yourself, there is an excellent guide book available.
The folks at Starry Night® have prepared a “Welcome Guide to Astronomy” that you can download for personal use or distribute to the public on Astronomy Day. It includes tips on how to get started, how to select a telescope and easy to read star maps. The guide includes an area on the cover for clubs to add their contact information.
What sort of events take place on Astronomy Day? Many clubs set up displays about astronomy and telescopes in malls, science centers, and planetariums. Many arrange to have well-known astronomers give talks. And, of course, there are lots of opportunities for people to look through telescopes at the Sun, Moon, planets, and whatever other objects are visible from urban and suburban locations.
When choosing objects to show people on Astronomy Day, you should concentrate on bright showpieces. It helps to decide ahead of time what objects you are going to show Then do a little homework so you can tell people a few interesting things about what they’re looking at. All except the brightest galaxies elicit very little interest from the general public. Double and multiple stars, often overlooked by today’s amateur astronomers, are often very interesting to the public, especially when you can tell them how far apart the stars are and how long they take to orbit around each other. Even such an obvious target as the Moon can be handled in different ways. I usually use a telescope with a motor drive and put a fairly high magnification on, so that just one area of the Moon’s surface is shown in detail. Often I will focus on one of the Apollo landing sites, since that’s a good conversation starter. This year the Apollo 15 landing site is particularly well placed on Astronomy day:
If you’re showing Saturn, check with Starry Night® beforehand to be able to point out the brighter moons at the eyepiece. As you can see in this view of Saturn at 9:45 pm EDT on Astronomy Day, Saturn’s elusive moon Iapetus will be very close to its brightest moon, Titan, making it easy to spot:
I wish you all clear skies and good observing on Astronomy Day!
Astronomy Day is usually a family affair with lots of kids, oops young astronomers in attendance. Engage them with astronomy by creating Smart Star-Art that everyone can enjoy. You will need a space with tables and chairs where the kids can work. Assume one hour for each session of Smart Star-Art.
Begin by choosing a theme. Pick one from the list below or use an idea of your own. Bring together some information resources to help you tell the kids about your subject: books, magazines, images, posters, music, videos, etc. Ask the kids what they know about the subject. Note their ideas and use them as a springboard for discussion. Dive into the topic with lots of pictures and other information.
When you have spent some time discussing your subject, have your young astronomers create a work of art about something they have just learned. Whatever it is, work with them to help them clarify their thoughts, but let them express their ideas freely. Make sure they label their work with their name and a title.
You may want to present each astronomer-artist with a certificate of participation in Smart Star-Art. Remember to take a good look at the works produced by your young astronomers. You might find the ideal T-shirt design or logo for next year’s Astronomy Day!
Some suggested themes:
Suggested materials (enough for everybody):
Additional information resources:
Mary Lou Whitehorne
Don't let the scale of the diagram above fool you: Hydra is the largest constellation, and covers some 90° of sky. At this time of year, from mid-northern latitudes, it lies along the southern horizon at midnight.
To start, M83 is an impressive barred spiral galaxy that, from our vantage point in space, lies almost face-on. Even small scopes should pick up its obvious structure.
M68 is a nice globular cluster, 33,000 lightyears away. It's visible in binoculars but a telescope brings out the individual suns.
NGC 3242, the Ghost of Jupiter, is one of the finest planetary nebulae in the sky. It's a full magnitude brighter than the more famous Ring Nebula (M57) in Lyra. A small telescope reveals a pale blue disc with diffuse edges and the prominent 11th magnitude star. Due to its high surface brightness, this target takes high magnification quite well: try 200x or 250x to see the football-shaped interior and faint shell.
NGC 3115, the Spindle Galaxy, is actually in Sextans. In contrast to M83, this galaxy is seen almost edge on. It's a lenticular galaxy, meaning it's a disc galaxy with very little spiral structure.
"Mercury Setting Over Urban Settings"—Oakland (foreground) and San Francisco, (background) California. Taken by David Likuski with CANON Power Shot® A510, 3.2 megapixel (with a very sturdy tripod!)
LOOKING FROM "THE HILLS", 1,400+ FEET HIGH—OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA., end of nautical twilight, 6:50 PM, 2/22/06. Mercury (upper center-right), sets one night before greatest elongation.
PHOTO OF THE MONTH COMPETITION: We would like to invite all Starry Night® users to send their quality astronomy photographs to be considered for use in our monthly newsletter. Featured submissions (best of month) will receive a prize of $25 USD. Please read the following guidelines and see the submission e-mail address below.
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