AAS 205th Meeting, 9-13 January 2005
Session 130 Astronomical Research with the Virtual Observatory
Special Session, Wednesday, January 12, 2005, 2:00-3:30pm, Royal Palm 1-3

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[130.10] NVO LITE - Harnessing the VO for Education

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

Spectroscopy is probably the most important tool used by astronomers to disentangle the nature of the universe. However, it is one of the most challenging subjects for undergraduates to understand. 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. Because of this, we are currently developing a suite of spectroscopic tools for astronomy education as part of Project LITE (Light Inquiry Through Experiments). We are also assessing the effectiveness of these tools in improving conceptual understanding of spectral phenomena by undergraduates taking introductory astronomy courses. Project LITE includes take-home laboratory materials and experiments that are integrated with web-based software. A core software application - the Spectrum Explorer (SPEX) makes possible the creation and analysis of spectra using drawing, blackbody, power law and other tools. The first release of SPEX runs as a Java applet. It is being extended to act as a client of the Spectrum Services of the Virtual Observatory and run as an application under Java Web Start. This development will help enable students to work with the VO catalogues that include the full range of spectra of essentially all known types of astronomical objects. Students will then be able to perform undergraduate astronomy exercises (such as the Hubble law and spectral classification) using real data. They will also be put in a position to be able to carry out original research of their own. SPEX (along with many other applets about both the physical and perceptual nature of light) can be found at the LITE web site http://lite.bu.edu. Project LITE is supported by NSF Grant #DUE-0125992. E. W. is supported by a NASA Graduate Student Research Fellowship, NASA Grant number NGT5-60482.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 5
© 2004. The American Astronomical Society.