AAS 204th Meeting, June 2004
Session 19 Astronomy Education
Oral, Monday, May 31, 2004, 10:00-11:30am, 706

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[19.06] Developing an On-Line Astro101 Module to Mine a Research Database

B. Hufnagel (Anne Arundel CC), J.C. Lochner (USRA & LHEA/GSFC), W.H. Howard II (Univ. of Md Univ. College)

We present an on-line module that helps introductory-level, non-science undergraduates extract information about neutron star binary star systems from X-ray light curves. The students interface directly with the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC) data through CollegeHera. Hera is a new service offered by HEASARC that enables complete interactive analysis of archived data products (see the separate Lochner & Pence paper in this meeting).

This multi-media education module is intended as a capstone activity in an introductory undergraduate Astronomy course for non-science majors. It can be used as a PC-based laboratory activity, or as a module in an on-line course. At the end of this project, the student should be able to:

Interpret the light curve of a binary star system in general

Produce an X-ray light curve from raw data collected by an X-ray satellite

Interpret the light curve he or she has produced for a particular binary system.

This project guides students through a self-assessed series of activities, motivated by two real binary star systems, HT Cassiopeia and GX301-2. Learning tools include interactive-style multiple-choice questions, written answers, and an animation. The student is guided through Hera to access GX301-2 raw data from the NASA Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) telescope, and compares his or her calculation of the period to the professional literature. A file of the assessment results can be electronically saved and submitted to the professor.

A laptop with internet access will be available at a related poster (Howard & Hufnagel, in this meeting) for participants to explore the module.

This module required extensive cooperation with the Hera team, and was based on a module developed by JCL. Irina Nelson, formerly of the Office of University Programs at GSFC, conceived the overall project. Support for this work was provided by the Southeast Regional Clearinghouse (SERCH) and the Maryland Space Grant Consortium


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