AAS Meeting #193 - Austin, Texas, January 1999
Session 91. Computers in Education
Education, Oral, Friday, January 8, 1999, 2:00-3:30pm, Room 9 (C)

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[91.04] Using Digital Cameras to Teach about Infrared Radiation and Instrumentation Technology

S. M. Pompea (Pompea and Associates), S. K. Croft (Center for Educational Technologies, Wheeling Jesuit University)

Digital cameras and image processing are used to create color composite images that illustrate the importance of the near infrared portion of the spectrum in providing additional information about an astronomical object. Demonstrations with digital cameras also help make infrared radiation real to students and illustrate the different aspects of a sensing system including the spectral emission properties of the source, the reflectivity of the object of interest, the use of filters, detector sensitivity, and the use of image processing.

Using appropriate, easily available filters, students can demonstrate that two objects that appear green (such as a car and a plant) have very different properties in the near infrared, since chlorophyll in plants is reflective in the near IR. The results can be applied to imaging of the planets to look for chlorophyll features indicative of life.

Digital cameras are affordable, relatively common devices which can be used in a wide variety of classroom and experimental settings. As such they can have a profound influence, in conjunction with image processing, on participatory teaching of observational astronomy and in sharing observations across the web. Some other general applications in this area as well as extensions to several areas of spectroscopy will also be discussed.

This work was supported by an NSF instructional materials grant as part of the Astronomy Village: Investigating the Solar System development program.

S. Pompea is an adjunct faculty member of Steward Observatory, University of Arizona.

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