2011 December - Visions of the Universe:  Remote Observing

Viewing the universe remotely highlighted in Stars at Yerkes first web conference workshop

December 10, 2011

By Margie Corp for Stars at Yerkes News

We love to see the universe as it is viewed through a telescope at night.  But how do teachers get their students to use a telescope when they are in class during the daytime or live in an area with a lot of light pollution and the sky is not very dark?  This month's workshop offered the answer of - remote observing.In the first ever Stars at Yerkes webinar, teachers learned about several different telescopes available online for students to use and image objects in our Milky Way and beyond.  Using the Internet and an online conference format, teachers from a variety of locations were brought together by conference leader and Stars at Yerkes teacher, Jackie Barge to learn about remote observing.  Observing With NASA network of telescopes was introduced first.  The OWN MicroObservatory allows teachers and students to request a selected catalog of items to be imaged.  The site takes the viewer through a step-by-step, user-friendly  set of screens to request images.  Tutorials are available for review and a directory of recently taken images are easily accessible.  Several images taken and processed by Jackie Barge and her students from Walter Payton College Prep High School with the OWN network are found on Visions of the Universe section of this site.

Kathleen Roper, Stars at Yerkes teacher from Hoyleton Public School led the next portion of the web conference with a discussion of the Skynet robotic telescope workshop.  Skynet allows the viewer to request any object visible from the telescopes from a wide variety of locations, including the Prompt telescopes in Chile, South America.  The image shown here is an example of an image taken with the Skynet network.In the last portion of the workshop, teachers were presented information about using Skynet to create light curves of variable stars.  Richard DeCoster of Niles West High School describe how the network could be used for more advanced and independent research projects by students and teachers.  Tutorials are available at the Skynet Enhanced UNC Astronomy Labs

Participants were treated to an evening session with Yerkes Observatory Education Outreach Director Vivian Hoette.  Using the same Internet conferencing technology, Vivian showed how a request for an image taken at Yerkes using the Skynet system goes from start to finish.  So many controls!  Although the weather at Yerkes did not cooperate, the workshop ended on a bright note, as the view of moonlight on the domes of the Prompt telescopes in Chile left all with visions of great observing sessions to come.The document seen below was shown during the workshop. Feel free to download for your own classroom use.