The University of Chicago News Office
June 23, 2003 Press Contact: Steve Koppes
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Science teachers to share ideas for mining astronomy data at Yerkes Observatory June 23-27

Science teachers from across the country and as far away as Japan will share strategies for showing students how to use real scientific data in their lessons during the Hands-On Universe annual conference at the University of Chicago’s Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisc., Monday, June 23 to Friday, June 27. The 25 teachers who will attend the conference, including several from the Chicago area, will later conduct workshops to share what they learned with hundreds of their colleagues.

Some of the gathering teachers and their students have used Yerkes telescopes remotely via computer to make astronomical observations, including Kevin McCarron of Oak Park and River Forest High School in Illinois and Tim Spuck of Oil City Area High School in Pennsylvania. But this year’s conference will focus on how students can mine actual scientific databases and collaborate with their peers at other schools.

“We have student software in the Hands-On Universe program very much like what is used by professional astronomers that the kids use to analyze and process images,” said conference organizer Vivian Hoette, an astronomy educator at Yerkes Observatory.

In 1998, three students at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts used the software and images taken by the Berkeley National Laboratory’s Supernova Cosmology Program to discover an asteroid orbiting the sun beyond Neptune. The teacher who supervised the students, Hughes Pack, will be among the teachers who will attend the conference. He will give a presentation about searching for asteroids.

The teachers also will learn how to combine the use of images taken at Yerkes with the Web-based resources of Northwestern University’s Collaboratory Project.

“The Collaboratory is an educational Web environment for teachers and students to collaborate on projects and to share them with other classes,” Hoette said.

Another presentation will pertain to the educational use of images taken by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The Sloan Survey is the most ambitious astronomical survey project ever undertaken. It will map in detail one-quarter of the entire sky, determining the positions and absolute brightnesses of more than 100 million celestial objects.

Frank Mills, a teacher from Woodstock, Ill., will discuss his ongoing project to track the movement of Bernard’s star across the constellation Ophiuchus. Discovered by E.E. Barnard at Yerkes Observatory in 1916, Bernard’s star has the fastest observable motion of any other star. Mills has been taking images of the star every six months for the last several years.

Other activities during the week will include presentations on telescopic and imaging technology and making nightly observations with Yerkes telescopes, weather permitting.

Hands-On Universe is funded by the National Science Foundation and based at the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley.
Last modified at 02:18 PM CST on Monday, June 23, 2003.

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