Science Activities: Students To Participate in Astronomical Observations

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From Oct. 20 to Nov. 3, students and other volunteers around the world will be participating in the "Great Worldwide Star Count," an effort funded by the National Science Foundation to map global light pollution and educate participants about astronomy. Students conducting observations will share their results via the Internet, which will be used in the ongoing annual research project.

The Great Worldwide Star Count is now in its second year. It's organized by the Windows to the Universe project, an effort of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a consortium of 71 higher education institutions. It's also supported by various scientific organizations and planetariums around the world.

Aside from conducting observations, students will also learn about light pollution and the factors that contribute to it and control it.

For students in the Northern Hemisphere, observations will be made of the constellation Cygnus, while, in the Southern Hemisphere, observations will be made of the constellation Sagittarius. These observations will be matched against charts provided by the Great World Wide Star Count project.

"By searching for the same constellations in their respective hemispheres, participants in the Great World Wide Star Count will be able to compare their observations with what others see, giving them a sense of how star visibility varies from place to place," said Cliff Jacobs, program director in NSF's Division of Atmospheric Sciences, in a statement released last week.

Last year's program resulted in 6,624 observations from all of the continents. According to NSF, the number of participants is expected to double this year. And next year, according to NSF, the Great Worldwide Star Count will be a cornerstone project of the 2009 International Year of Astronomy, "a global effort initiated by the International Astronomical Union and the [United Nations] Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote interest in astronomy."

Participation is open now. Observations can take place at any time between now and Nov. 3. Further information about the project, including downloadable activity guides and instructions, can be found here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. He can now be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/THEJournalDave (K-12) or http://twitter.com/CampusTechDave (higher education). You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192.

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