AAS 201st Meeting, January, 2003
Session 28. Astronomy Education and Public Outreach
Oral, Monday, January 6, 2003, 10:00-11:30am, 613-614

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[28.03] The Project LITE Spectrum Explorer

K. Brecher, P. Carr, P. Garik, E. Weeks (Boston U.)

We are developing a powerful new software tool which can help students at all levels understand the spectral properties of light. As a recent AAS survey of astronomy faculty members found (The Physics Teacher, 39, 52, 2001), essentially all introductory astronomy courses spend a significant amount of time dealing with the nature of light. Among the most difficult concepts for students to master are Kirchhoff’s laws, blackbody radiation, the Stefan-Boltzmann law, Wien’s law, the nature and causes of emission and absorption lines, and the relation of spectra to the underlying astronomical and physical processes producing them. Students often seem baffled by the connection between a spectrum seen visually as a color band and the same spectrum plotted graphically as intensity versus wavelength or frequency. The "Spectrum Explorer", a JAVA applet, is being developed as part of "Project LITE: Light Inquiry Through Experiments" to address these issues. It can be used by instructors in lecture presentations and by students learning at home or working in laboratory settings. We will show some of the current capabilities of the software which include simultaneous display of multiple spectra (normalized and non-normalized as a function of either wavelength or frequency) and the ability to manipulate blackbody spectra. Our future development plans include the addition of a variety of spectral data sets (from physics and chemistry as well as from astronomy); computed inputs from basic quantum mechanics (e.g. Zeeman effect in hydrogen) and from astronomical models (e.g. time varying spectra in binary stars); and the ability to test the effect of filters and physical processes (e.g. Rayleigh scattering) on input spectra. The Spectrum Explorer (along with many other applets about both the physical and perceptual nature of light) can be found on the Project LITE web site http://lite.bu.edu. Project LITE is supported by Grant #DUE-0125992 from the National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://lite.bu.edu. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

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