irsa orion

This post is courtesy of Datanaut Dr. Luisa Rebull, who writes to us from southern California!

I run a program called NITARP, the NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program. NITARP partners small groups of educators with a research astronomer for a year-long research project. Because of my connection with NITARP, I learned about more and more programs out there that get students and teachers in touch with real astronomy data -- not just NASA, not even just US-based. NITARP is a very intense experience for the participants, because they are engaging with data at a very deep level. Admittedly, not everyone is ready for this kind of experience right away. So, I started to make a list of all the programs I knew about that got teachers and students in contact with real data.

This page on the NITARP site collects a wide variety of programs getting educators (and students) in touch with real astronomy data. Some of these programs are intensive commitments, with annual cycles of eligibility, and some are more rolling admissions, where anyone can participate any time. Some have geographical restrictions; most do not. Some allow for lots of interaction with the people who run the program, and some depend on your ability to read the documentation they've provided and learn on your own. All involve access to real data, but some are more "packaged", where you interact with a color image on a web page, and some are less "packaged", where you have to download real (free) astronomy software to interact with the image in the format in which it is archived, or develop your own Excel spreadsheet (or use other data management software) to manipulate large tables of data. Many involve research, or building research skills in the manipulation of real data.

This list is so long -- truly an embarrassment of riches -- that I had to sort it more or less by wavelength. There is a special section just on exoplanets. There are several telescopes you can control over the internet, and citizen science programs ranging from "access this web page" to "build and use a radio telescope."

Not all of these programs may currently be running. The astronomy education community has been rocked by funding revolutions in recent years, and many programs were discontinued. In many cases, the materials that defunct programs have produced are still on the web and are still of some use. You will have to invest some time to go through the list and find ones that will work for your needs and time availability, etc.

More recently, I created this page, which is maybe more suitable for K-6 educators and students. These resources still are good places to start, but do not necessarily require as much background knowledge as those on the main list above.

Finally, I relatively recently had a paper accepted by the refereed conference proceedings associated with the RTSRE conference that took place in June 2017; this paper talks about the model of a "funnel" as a way to think about the "ecosystem" of programs getting data into the hands of teachers and students. I posted it on the physics education section of arXiv

So many resources, so little time! :)

About Claire

Datanauts Community Manager

NASA Ames Research Center