Astronomy projects for college

Astronomy projects for College

Colleges / October 30, 2016

Interested in becoming a published author in an astronomical research journal?

Sign up for the Astronomy Research Seminar Honors Project at Grossmont College!

(in collaboration with other organizations in San Diego County and California)

Points of Contact: Dr. S. Cormier or Dr. P. Blanco, Department of Physics and Astronomy.
  • Primarily for students of PHYC140/240/241, OR Astronomy with a "B" or higher in Precalculus (Math 176), but students in other disciplines are welcome to apply.
  • Must have a minimum GPA of 3.2 unless waived by your Grossmont College instructor
  • Students will be placed in a team to perform the research and co-author a research paper for submission to the Journal of Double Star Observations
  • Total workload is equivalent to adding ~1 more unit to your course (i.e. additional 20% or 4-5 hours per week), in a combination of online self-paced learning units, video conferences, and in-person meetings with team members and mentors. Please note: An honors contract, once approved, may NOT be cancelled later on without withdrawing from the class. This means that if for any reason you do poorly in your honors work - even if you get an A in the regular class work - you could end up with a B or even a lower grade overall (with the corresponding grade points). In that case, "Honors" will still appear next to the course on your official transcript. Typically, honors contracts must be submitted by departments before the end of Week 4.

Project Description

iTelescope T11 (New Mexico) Apparent orbit of a double star system

The Astronomy Research Seminar is a statewide team- and project-based learning experience where students conduct actual scientific research, supported by the Institute for Student Astronomical Research (InStAR) and the Boyce Research Initiatives and Educational Foundation (BRIEF).

Students in this program will undertake double star research by requesting and obtaining CCD images of double star systems using the network, which has observatories in Australia, Spain and the US. You will learn about star classfications, double star systems, sky coordinates and astrometry, astronomical databases, telescopes, cameras, and creating meaningful charts and graphs.

Building a research team, planning and leading parts of a research project, and presenting your findings by writing a first class research paper are important parts of the experience that can be applied to any field of research - and will help your college and job applications stand out from the crowd!

Online video conferences and presentations are held with astronomers and other participants during the semester, in addition to local mentoring by the Physics department. We hope that there will also be opportunities to use telescope equipment at Grossmont College, or at the San Diego Astronomy Association dark sky site near Tierra Del Sol at the east end of San Diego County.

Teams will use analysis software on a server hosted by the Boyce Research Initiatives and Educational Foundation. Each student team will write a co-authored paper to be submitted to the Journal of Double Star Observations for publication.

See some earlier published team papers in this special issue of JDSO.

Astronomy Research Seminar Honors Project Approximate Schedule:

Weeks 1-3: Introduction to Double Star Research (individual, online study) Articulate the nature of scientific and astronomical research. Describe the scientific value of double star research. Explain the basic techniques used to observe and quantitatively measure double stars. By the end of week 4: signed Honors Contracts will be due to the college honors coordinator, Amy Ramos Weeks 4-6:Plan research projects Make a double star observing plan that can be completed by a student team within the semester. Write a brief team research proposal. Weeks 7-9: Observations and analysis Effectively manage a research project, keeping it on schedule. Obtain observational data as appropriate for the team's research project. Utilize established software tools to reduce each team's research observations. Apply basic statistical analyses to establish the accuracy and uncertainties of calculated quantities. Analyze reduced and calibrated data to draw conclusions about a specific double star system. Weeks 10-12: Write your team's research paper! Outline, write, and extensively revise your carefully-worded, concise, team scientific paper. Improve the paper by incorporating the suggestions made by an external expert peer reviewer. Submit team paper to the Journal of Double Star Observations for publication. Weeks 12-16: Present team's research Findings Prepare and present concise team scientific talks or posters (Powerpoint format) to be given to other teams on campus. Optionally, team leaders can prepare a poster for participation at the Honors Transfer Conference at UC Irvine in Spring 2017. Finally - reflect on what it meant to be a member of a team conducting original scientific research!

Offsite instructional team:

Dr. Russ Genet - Dr. Genet's astronomical career, which now extends over half a century, has included automation of telescopes and observatories, photometry of variable stars, and astrometry of double stars. He has written or edited some two dozen books, and authored or co-authored well over 100 scientific papers. He has appeared on a number of television programs, including The Perfect Stargazer, a PBS one-hour special that featured his development of automated telescopes and robotic observatories.

Mr. Pat Boyce - founder of Boyce Research Initiatives and Educationa Foundation (BRIEF). With his son Grady, Pat provides logistical support for the seminar to make it possible. This includes Xoom videoconferencing, scheduling observing time on the iTelescope network (for which the Foundation pays on your behalf), and providing a dedicated server (BARC) which acts as a repository for the image data and analysis software used in this project.

- Institute for Student Astronomical Research (InStAR), a subsidiary of the Collins Educational Foundation.
- coordinated schedule (across many teams) and instructional materials for this project.
- Journal of Double Star Observations (JDSO). Free online access to past papers under "Archives".

Grossmont College on-campus mentors:

The Grossmont College Honors program coordinator is Amy Ramos, Instructor in the Psychology Department.

Philip Blanco, Grossmont College