Variable Star Semester Project - Kevin McCarron

Variable Star Semester Project
Kevin McCarron

Course: Astronomy
Grade Level: 11-12

Abstract: This project will help the 11-12th grade astronomy students understand the primary research they will do with active galactic nuclei (AGN) for the CITeam.  Presently there is little connection for the students to understand what it is they are doing.  The project doesn’t describe why they should compare the standard stars to the varying AGN.  This project will bridge the gap to show how this is done and why.
    Supporting materials:

    Collaboratory at Northwestern University
        The stationary that developed for the CITeam AGN research project will  be used.  It is a great way to document what the observer has done and a place to request images.

        American Association of Variable Star Observers
            http://www.aavso.org
                This website gives excellent background on variable star observing and a place to submit data.

This will give my students more real (and messy) data to work with.  It will also force them to do advanced analysis on the data.  This will force me to address their questions as from a researcher, searching for knowledge, not a student looking through other people’s interpretation to find answers.

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Project

State Standards:

11.A.5a  Formulate hypotheses referencing prior research and knowledge.
11.A.4d  Apply statistical methods to the data to reach and support conclusions.
11.A.5e  Report, display and defend the results of investigations to audiences that may include professionals and technical experts.
11.A.3f  Interpret and represent results of analysis to produce findings.
11.A.3g  Report and display the process and results of a scientific investigation.
12.F.5a  Compare the processes involved in the life cycle of stars (e.g., gravitational collapse, thermonuclear fusion, nova) and evaluate the supporting evidence.

Description:
1. Every student will select a variable star for the semester.  It must:
    A. be visible from Charleston IL or Perth Australia the entire semester. (correct Dec for the site and correct RA for the term of the semester.)
    B. It must be dim, so that others aren’t looking at it.  (dimmer than 15th magnitude)
    C. The period of variation must vary greater than one week and less than one year.
2. During the semester we will request three consecutive (one after another) observations once per week using the Hands-On Universe or the Collaboratory request system.
3. Every Monday we will calculate the magnitude of the star and enter the data onto a spreadsheet in American Association of Variable Star Observers format.
4. Students will start a plot by the fourth week.
5. At midterm, students will print a copy of their current plot and distribute to the rest of the class. 
6. Two weeks prior to the end of the semester, students will submit data to the AAVSO.  He or she will again print out the plot and data for the rest of the class. 
7. Each student will talk with at least three other students.  By the end of the semester, each student will establish a classification scheme based on the data and submit it defending the scheme in a brief, one-page letter. 
8. Subsequent years, students will get data from prior year classes when trying to establish a classification scheme.

Resources:

    Collaboratory at Northwestern University
        The stationary that developed for the CITeam AGN research project will  be used.  It is a great way to document what the observer has done and a place to request images.

    American Association of Variable Star Observers
        www.aavso.org
            This website gives excellent background on variable star observing and a place to submit data.

Evaluation:

Data collected: 25 points
    Data collected weekly (weather could prevent this).
    Accurate

Personal Data Analysis: 40 points
    Analyzed within two weeks
    Done accurately
    Includes uncertainty analysis

Class Data Analysis: 10 points
    Done twice during the year.
    Accurate

Final report: 25 points
    Scientifically sound
    Evidence-based
    Clearly defended

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