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Session 4 - The WWW and Astronomy Education.
Display session, Monday, January 13
Astronomy is fundamentally a visual subject. The modern science of astronomy has at its foundation the ancient art of observing the sky visually. The visual elements of astronomy are arguably the most important. Every person in the entire world is affected by visually-observed astronomical phenomena such as the seasonal variations in daylight. However, misconceptions abound and the average person cannot recognize the simple signs in the sky that point to the direction, the hour and the season.
Educators and astronomy popularizers widely lament that astronomy is not appreciated in our society. Yet, there is a remarkable dearth of popular literature for teaching the visual elements of astronomy. This is what I refer to as *the astronomical void.* Typical works use illustrations sparsely, relying most heavily on text-based descriptions of the visual astronomical phenomena. Such works leave significant inferential gaps to the inexperienced reader, who is unequipped for making astronomical observations. Thus, the astronomical void remains unfilled by much of the currently available literature.
I therefore propose the introduction of a visually-oriented medium for teaching the visual elements of Astronomy. To this end, I have prepared a series of astronomy "comic strips" that are intended to fill the astronomical void. By giving the illustrations the central place, the comic strip medium permits the depiction of motion and other sequential activity, thus effectively representing astronomical phenomena. In addition to the practical advantages, the comic strip is a "user friendly" medium that is inviting and entertaining to a reader.
At the present time, I am distributing a monthly comic strip entitled *Starman*, which appears in the newsletters of over 120 local astronomy organizations and on the web at http://www.cyberdrive.net/ starman. I hope to eventually publish a series of full-length books and believe that astronomical comic strips will help expand the perimeter of astronomical awareness.
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