Sharing the View of Galileo

Building teachers' knowledge of the universe by building telescopes

April 16, 2011

By Margie Corp and Peggy Piper for Stars at Yerkes News

Galileo’s telescope:  two pieces of glass and a tube.  Using his mind, Galileo’s result:  an entirely new universe to be explored and understood.  Teachers at the latest Stars at Yerkes workshop were guided through their own path of discovery by constructing a Galileoscope telescope to extend their knowledge of worlds beyond.John Sunta and Peggy Piper test out their new Galileoscopes

In celebration of Global Astronomy Month, the theme of the workshop was “Sharing the Universe.”  The event began on Friday evening with a relaxed session of remote viewing led by Josh Haislip from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  All participants were very excited to see the new addition of ARO 30, Bob Holmes' telescope near Charleston, Illinois.  Josh gave us an overview of the Skynet network of telescopes including live video of the PROMPT telescopes in Cerro Pachon, Chile.  After a brief lesson on requesting images, attendees requested their own images using a list of deep space objects provided by ARCS teacher Rich DeCoster.

Ed Sadler helps teachers Peggy Piper, Maria Wilson, and John Sunta with their Galileoscopes.

Stars at Yerkes teachers Kevin McCarron and Ed Sadler began the day by helping teachers build their own Galileoscope.  Teachers then practiced using the telescopes with their tripods.  Teachers commented that building a telescope using the basic components greatly helped them understand how the larger telescopes at Yerkes worked.

Vivian Hoette, Yerkes Director of Education and Outreach, then led participants in a session describing how to use the online program Afterglow.  This program allows teachers and students to create a movie, animating images taken with remote telescopes in the Skynet network.  Teachers enjoyed finding the asteroid in the set of images, and discussed plans to request images of their own for similar study. 

The afternoon session was devoted to student station lessons about lenses and mirrors.  ARCS teacher Margie Corp described how these stations aided her students by giving them opportunities to see the components of telescopes, and by managing classroom organization to permit small groups to view actual telescopes.  A computer projector was also studied by the teachers, showing how lenses, mirrors, and filters were used in an everyday application.Left:  Cathy Fernan and Vivian Hoette examine concave and convex mirrors.

Right:  Kate Meredith explores the angles of reflection of light at another mirror station.


The highlight of the afternoon was a tour of the Yerkes 41 inch telescope.  The telescope recently has been automated for the Skynet network by Josh Haislip.  Josh demonstrated how the use of barcode technology was instrumental in automating the telescope and observatory dome.  The telescope also boasts a new camera, provided by a grant from the Illinois Board of Education.

What would Galileo think if he could make discoveries like this?  We can only imagine.