AAS 197, January 2001
Session 87. Innovations in Teaching Astronomy II
Joint Display, Wednesday, January 10, 2001, 9:30am-7:00pm, Exhibit Hall

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[87.04] Research Experience for Teachers at NRAO-Green Bank: HI Clouds in the Ursa Major Region of the Milky Way

T. A. Boyd (Garaway High School), F. J. Lockman (NRAO)

The purpose of the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) project is to place teachers in the role of scientific researcher. Teachers participating in RET work closely with a scientist-mentor. In this project, the goal was to analyze neutral hydrogen data taken of the Ursa Major region.

Mapping the distribution of neutral hydrogen in the Galactic Plane is a task confused by multiple sources in the same line of sight. The Ursa Major region of the sky is one of the few locations where HI can be easily sorted into discreet clouds. The Ursa Major area is out of the plane of the Galaxy and has a low column density of HI. Observations of a roughly 200 square degree region in Ursa Major were made with the 140' telescope between 1987 and 1999. By the time the 140' retired in 1999, more than 32,000 HI spectra had been taken in this area.

The RET project involved compiling and reducing this raw data. For the teacher, the work entailed a crash course in UNIX, data reduction software, and, most importantly, how to interpret spectral profiles. Each spectrum profile required: baseline fitting, data averaging, corrections for atmospheric opacity, elimination of interference and bad data points. By the end of the RET appointment, the first pass at data reduction was complete and a few rough velocity maps of the region were generated.

A curriculum unit based on this research has been created for high school physics students. It culminates in a project where students analyze spectral line data and create maps from it. Goals include learning: how spectral line data is used in astronomy how HI profiles are analyzed and interpreted to infer the dynamics of gas in our Galaxy.


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