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NOAO Newsletter - National Solar Observatory - September 2000 - Number 63


Research Experiences for Teachers at NSO

Frank Hill

In conjunction with the NOAO Educational Outreach program, NSO is hosting two science teachers, Travis Stagg from Girard College High School (Philadelphia, PA) and Thomas Seddon from Alamogordo High School (Alamogordo, NM), as part of the NSF-funded Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program.

The RET program is funded through the NSF as a supplement to the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. Travis Stagg has participated previously in the NOAO Research-Based Science Education (RBSE) program and builds on that experience with this RET partnership. The goal of his RET experience is to develop a scientifically interesting research project that can be performed by a large number of students in a middle or high school classroom. Conceivably, students who partici-pate in solar research resulting from this RET project could apply for the REU program a few years later!

This summer, Travis is working with Frank Hill on developing an idea initiated by Carl Henney (NSO) to measure the latitude and longitude of many solar active regions observed in the NSO/Kitt Peak Vacuum Telescope magnetograms. A QuickTime movie showing the full set of magnetograms, with accompanying classroom materials, is under development by NASA scientist Harry Jones and Hawaii teacher Mike Gearen, funded through a NASA E/PO supplement. Stagg and Hill will have students create a database of active region positions from the movie, and then analyze the results to determine the location of active longitudes, bands where activity tends to occur repeatedly. Measurements over the 25-year time span of the observations will provide an estimate of the rate at which these zones rotate. This rotation rate is not necessarily the same as that seen on the solar surface, since it is thought that active regions are connected to the material inside the Sun. Since we know how the solar interior rotates from helioseismology (the study of solar oscillations), comparing the rotation rate of the active longitudes to the internal rotation rate will allow us to determine how deep the active regions extend below the surface. This, in turn, will provide clues about the cause of solar activity.

Thomas Seddon has more than 30 years of teaching experience. In addition to teaching physics, physical science, and mathematics at Alamogordo High School, he teaches computer science and occupational education computer science at NMSU in Alamogordo. This summer, Thomas has been engaged in the ongoing research at NSO-Sac Peak, getting an overview of the research conducted with an end product of a series of exercises and laboratory experiences based on WWW-accessible solar data at NSO and elsewhere. He has been tailoring these exercises for use in high school physics classrooms. The exercises will be produced in a readily available format and accessible via NSO's WWW site. Thomas has been cataloging, sorting, and developing available Web sites that are primarily involved in solar studies. Many of these Web sites include hands-on experiments and activities. These digested and annotated resources will be made available through links on the NSO Web site, New Mexico science teachers' list serve, and other Internet physics/science teacher resources. Thomas has been assisting the Sunspot Astronomy and Visitor Center by connecting it to many of the above solar research sites and making these available to the public on a daily basis.


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