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Media Corner



Edutopia, October/November 2009 Cool Schools A charter school in the Mojave Desert charts the heavens. It talks about not only the Lewis Center for Educational Research, but what GAVRT was, is, and what it can do for students all over the globe.
Science @ NASA

Science @ NASA

Science @ NASA, September 21, 2009 This online article explains how students around the world are helping NASA track the LCROSS spacecraft on its way to the Moon in search of water!
People Magazine

People Magazine

People Magazine, November 18, 2002 Article focuses on Rick Piercy who conceptulaized the Lewis Center for Educational Research after a star party in the desert town of Apple Valley in 1985. (page 126

Reprinted from PEOPLE Weekly's November 18, 2002 issue by special permission;
(c) 2002 Time Inc. All rights reserved.
Nature Magazine

Nature Magazine

Nature Magazine, February 28, 2002 Cassini at Jupiter article made the cover of the magazine. Jim Roller and Bob McLeod of the Lewis Center are coauthors with the JPL Scientists in this article on some ground-based observations of Jupiter's radiation belts. (pages 965, 985-1005)
Mercury Magazine

Mercury Magazine

Mercury Magazine, January/February 2002 Students Contribute to Jupiter Science by Carolyn Seydel (page 28). Article shows a photo of middle school students at Opelika Middle School in Alabama online with the telescope.

published by The Astronomical Society of the Pacific
An International Organization

January/February 2002
Volume 31 No. 1

Students Contribute to Jupiter Science
By Caroline Seydel

Even school children can make a contribution to planetary science. From November 2000 through February 2001, middle and high school students in 13 states observed Jupiter using a radio telescope, and their data were relayed to the Cassini team.

Through a partnership with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the non-profit Lewis Center for Educational Research in Apple Valley, California (, students remotely controlled the 34-meter Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) in southern California. The telescope is part of a group of large radio dishes at the Goldstone tracking station of the Deep Space Network, used by NASA to track interplanetary spacecraft such as Voyager and Galileo.

Craig Campbell, Vice President of the Lewis Center, says he is pleased with the project's success: "You have children who are extremely disadvantaged, many of whom have barely seen the stars at night. Yet here they're riding buses across Detroit a four in the morning to operate a radio telescope in California."

Schools used special software to communicate remotely with the telescope. One student steered the telescope, while classmates watched the dish move via live Internet video. As the radio telescope scanned Jupiter, students recorded radio intensities at different wavelengths. This record of radio emission told Cassini scientists whether the spacecraft observed a typical day or an unusual day.

The students themselves processed and analyzed all the data and they delivered their final report to the Cassini scientists in the spring. Student data were also used to calibrate Cassini's radiometer. "It's not the biggest thing that's going on from NASA's perspective," says Campbell. "But the fact that our kids are contributing directly to the mission is really extraordinary as far as we're concerned."
Newsletter of the Whakatane Astronomical Society, New Zealand

Newsletter of the Whakatane Astronomical Society, New Zealand

Newsletter of the Whakatane Astronomical Society, New Zealand, May 2002
An article written by Bonnie J. Walters for the Ventura County Astronomical Society was published in this international newsletter on GAVRT after a visit by the author to NASA's Deep Space Communication Complex at Goldstone.

Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope/GAVRT

By Bonnie J. Walters
Ventura County Astronomical Society

In late January, I was fortunate to visit the Goldstone Deep Space Communication Complex. Goldstone is located 45 miles north of Barstow, California on Ft. Irwin. Your inexhaustible editor described that very same tour in the February issue of this newsletter. At the time I had mentioned to our tour guide, Marie Massey, I was in training to become a technical operator for the Telescopes in Education (TIE) project at Mt. Wilson. She said the radio telescope equivalent to the TIE project was the Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope project, better known as GAVRT. As we stood at the base of the massive DSS-12 antenna, Marie gave us a brief history of GAVRT. She thought I should 'scope it' out and here are the results:

:The Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope project's radio telescope is called Deep Space Station 12 (DSS-12). It was built in late 1961 and was originally 26 meters in diameter. It is located at the ECHO site near the administration complex. This site is named for its initial operation in support of Project Echo, an experiment that transmitted voice communications coast to coast by bouncing the signals off the surface of passive balloon-type satellites. The present Echo antenna was extended to 34 meters in 1979. It is about 35 meters high and weighs approximately 400 tons (514,667 kilograms). For more than thirty years, DSS-12 has been used to track and communicate with robotic space probes. It covered the Mariner missions, Pioneer, Voyagers 1 and 2, and other spacecraft exploring the solar system. In 1994, NASA decommissioned DSS-12 from its operational network. In 1996, a coalition of professional scientists, educators, engineers, and several community volunteers began working on a use for the antenna and the GAVRT project was born. Presently, DSS-12 is solely used for the GAVRT project.

The GAVRT project is a partnership involving NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Lewis Center for Educational Research (LCER), and the Apple Valley Unified School District. This partnership has converted the 34-meter telescope into an interactive research and teaching instrument available to K-12 classrooms throughout the United States via the Internet. The LCER, the Deep Space Network Science Office, and the Telecommunications/Mission Operations Directorate at JPL jointly manage the GAVRT Project.

The purpose of GAVRT is to provide students and educators with curriculum vehicles that promote science literacy, support a better understanding of the scientific community, and provides the opportunity to collect real-time data with sophisticated science equipment. Students perform actual scientific observations in radio astronomy. They analyze real-time data and learn that science is an ongoing process. Currently, the curriculum covers upper elementary through high school (K-12). There are lessons for the younger grades on the electromagnetic spectrum. It meets National Science Education Standards and is adapted to meet individual State Education Standards. The curriculum guides are broad-based, multi-disciplined and can be adapted for children of all backgrounds and educational levels. They can be implemented as is or adapted to fit any lesson plan. For instance, some grades fulfill their math, science, art, reading, and writing standards with this program.

The two established curriculum projects are Jupiter Quest and Project EarthStar. Jupiter Quest is a student-planned hypothetical mission to the Jovian System. The GAVRT telescope is used to measure the temperature of Jupiter's atmosphere and study variations in the radio emission from Jupiter's intense radiation belts. In Project EarthStar, students study temperature profiles of the sun's surface correlated with optical observations of various solar phenomena. There is room for flexibility when opportunity arises. For instance, the Cassini-Jupiter Microwave Observing Campaign (Cassini-JMOC) asked the GAVRT teachers and students to be an active participant when the Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft made its closest approach to Jupiter on December 30, 2000. As participants, the GAVRT students took measurements of Jupiter and calibration radio sources used by the NASA Cassini mission. Following the completion of the Jupiter flyby, their data was compiled into a report and presented to the Cassini Mission Team in a formal ceremony at JPL on May 4, 2001. As reported to the 52nd International Astronautical Congress 1-5 Oct 2001/Toulouse, France by M.J. Klein, Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech…using the VLA, the GAVRT antenna and NASA's Deep Space Network, the data collected were merged with the ongoing NASA/JPL Jupiter Patrol to improve the sensitivity and time resolution of the resulting data. These observations were made simultaneously with the spacecraft observations to transfer the accuracy of ground-based radio astronomy flux calibration to the Cassini radar receiver using Jupiter as a common reference source. [thus improving the calibration] The Uranus Campaign Project is beginning in the summer of 2002. It will be a collaboration of observations. The students' data will help determine the nature of seasonal change in Uranus' deep atmosphere. The Uranus study will continue for the next few years.

These special projects are a wonderful opportunity for students to participate with NASA/JPL. All projects follow the same principles in that each is based on real science and legitimate inquiry, is curriculum driven, is accessible to all students, aligns with the science standards and offers students the opportunity to possess and share real scientific data. Two other curriculum projects in development are Galactic Mapping (locating and mapping radio sources in the Milky Way) and StarBirth (studying the origins of star formation, chemistry in space, and radio spectroscopy).

Through technology, GAVRT provides students with an incredible learning opportunity outside the classroom. Students call in and hook up via the Internet to Operations Control Center at LCER in Apple Valley, California. They are then given remote control of the massive DSS-12 antenna. Students learn how to work cooperatively in teams. Computers are used to record the faint radio waves collected by the telescope. Students have a tremendous chance to fine-tune their computer and problem solving skills. They learn how to gather real-time data, how to analyze it with a computer software program and determine what that data means. The data can then be manipulated to provide various delivery styles (graphs, charts, mapping graphs etc.). The data is logged first at LCER where it goes through the preliminary student analysis and is stored at the database there. These results are forwarded to the JPL for final analysis and inclusion in their database. It is then made available to scientists, astronomers, teachers and students around the world. The students are acutely aware there is always the chance of making a real scientific discovery.

As you well, might guess, teacher training is extensive. 98 teachers at 58 schools in 17 states have gone through training. Over 10,000 (K-12) students have gone through the GAVRT program. Come July 2002, GAVRT will be an international program with several teachers from other countries completing their training. Applications are being taken now for the 2002-2003 school year. Teacher training takes place 4 times a year. Three sessions occur at LCER and the other at Auburn University in Alabama, their Southeastern Regional Training Site. Teachers must be committed to the program, have an interest in math and science, be computer and Internet savvy, and have school/district support. Teacher and school requirements can be found at GAVRT's web site.

The basic training package consists of 5 full days of teacher training, all necessary operation and curriculum materials, software, a minimum of six hours scheduled classroom time on-line with the GAVRT telescope, and a field trip to NASA's Deep Space Network at Goldstone, CA. There are four payment options available for the teacher training and these are detailed at the web site. Teachers receive continual on-line support throughout the school year.

GAVRT is an impressive project and a wonderful opportunity to excite our next generation of scientists, engineers and astronomers.

All questions can be referred to Kim Bunnell, Executive Assistant, Lewis Center for Educational Research,

Phi Delta KAPPAN

Phi Delta KAPPAN

Phi Delta KAPPAN, May 2001 Jupiter Quest, A Path to Scientific Discovery (page 683).The authors describe a scientific endeavor that excites students and changes their thought processes as they embark on a journey of discovery., Science News, Science News, Science News, Our Solar System, May 4, 2001
Listen to the kids by Paul Morledge. Teenage students using a huge radio telescope will report to NASA what they've discovered about Jupiter's radiation belts.

Jupiter Quest

A Path to Scientific Discovery

The authors describe a scientific endeavor that excites students and changes their thought processes as they embark on a journey of discovery.

by Kelly A. Bollman, Mark H. Rodgers, & Robert L. Mauller

ALL SCIENCE teachers want to convey to students the true meaning of the scientific endeavor. We want them not just to understand science, but also to feel some part of the exhilaration that comes with scientific discovery. But there remains a significant difference between even advanced science classrooms and professional science. For students to get a taste of the world of professional science, they must have access to the scientific community and be given the chance to be real scientists.

The Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) Project began as a proposal from two educators at the Lewis Center for Educational Research (then called the Apple Valley Science & Technology Center) in Apple Valley, California, to allow students in middle and high schools to experience science using a 34-meter radio antenna located at Goldstone (California) facility of NASA's Deep Space Network. The dish had already been scheduled to be decommissioned. This idea has given rise to a partnership involving NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Lewis Center for Educational Research. Today, the project has one complete curriculum package, called Jupiter Quest, and a number of others under development. The new curriculum packages will focus on the sun/Earth relationship, the birth of new stars in our galaxy, and the mapping of radio sources on the galactic plane. The goal of all these curriculum packages is to allow students to step briefly into the world of professional research scientists and to experience the process of discovery.

The Jupiter Quest curriculum concerns a hypothetical space mission to the Jovian system. Students work in teams to study Jupiter and its four largest moons. They perform experiments to understand science concepts that may be new to them, they observe Jupiter with the radio antenna, and they scrutinize data collected during observations. Then the students select Jupiter itself or one of its larger moons for further study and as a destination for a hypothetical manned or unmanned mission. They must consider environment, planetary geology, gravity, time, nutrition, and health concerns. In the process, they learn the importance of asking such questions as "What further information is needed?" and "How do scientific teams plan missions to collect specific types of information?" Depending on the focus of each class, students may investigate one or a few areas in depth while just touching on others. Skills in scientific reasoning, in the presentation of evidence, and in effective communication are stressed, while students learn the value of peer review and how research scientists discover, verify, and share information and ideas.

Jupiter Quest, which partners middle schools and high schools nationwide with Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Lewis Center for Educational Research, engages students in the process of scientific discovery while helping teachers provide a standards-based course of study. At the close of the 1999-2000 school year, 58 teachers in 36 schools in nine states had been trained to use Jupiter Quest. This project gives students a chance to become part of a team whose members truly depend on one another. It gives them a chance to collect and process real-world scientific data, using state-of-the-art equipment and software, and to contribute that information to the scientific community. Because Jupiter Quest is a real investigation, not a simulation in which nothing ever goes wrong, students must learn to anticipate likely problems and to handle those that cannot be anticipated as they arise.

After the data from the antenna have been collected and analyzed, they are posted on a special Internet site along with other Jupiter data collected by other radio antennas or arrays of antennas, and a long-term picture of Jupiter's radio emissions emerges. Unlike the laboratory experiments with known outcomes that students generally experience in the science classroom, Jupiter Quest gives them the chance to observe unexpected events as they occur and to become part of actual scientific discovery. The project is an open-ended, ongoing observation effort in which students play a very real role.

A Unique Science Experience
Jupiter Quest is unique in a number of ways. The project provides opportunities to students that are unlike those of the traditional science classroom. It brings technology to the school in a way that is broad and varied and goes beyond typing, Internet searches, and simulations. It also brings teachers together across state lines and various cultures and allows them to share in discussions of new curriculum, best practices, problem solving, and the excitement of science. Those of us who have participated in the project over time feel that it has brought us a better understanding of what science is outside the classroom and reminded us of the scientific journey - the path of discovery.

We mentioned that students work on the project collaboratively, and collaboration is a part of many science classrooms. But the most common form of collaboration involves having students work with lab partners or as part of a lab group, in which the students complete the procedure and collect data as a "team". Certainly, working together is something that students must learn to do, but the test of real collaboration is whether a student actually needs and relies on the contributions of other members of the group. Most students in most science classes will admit that they could have done their projects on their own. Jupiter Quest pushes past these issues with a project that is truly collaborative.

The Jupiter Quest team, which consists of students, teachers, technicians, and scientists, works together to collect, analyze, and distribute data in a process in which team members must depend on one another. The telescope that gathers the raw data may be thousands of miles away from the classroom and is prepared and maintained by a group of technicians at Goldstone. The remote link to the telescope is established by technicians at the Lewis Center's Mission Control in Apple Valley and is then handed over to students. The students then send commands to the telescope and collect the data.

Moreover, this is not a lab experiment that can be dumped down the sink and done over after school if things don't go well. This is real. Jupiter sets for the day, and another school is scheduled to use the antenna the next day. The team has to work together, or nothing gets done. It is a remarkably valuable aspect of the Jupiter Quest experience when students realize their vital role as members of the project team. It fosters a sense of seriousness about the process and engenders a sense of ownership of an academic activity that is rarely seen among middle and high school students.

Another layer of collaboration involving the Jupiter Quest teams occurs within the classroom as the curriculum project models the scientific community. Each student has a specific function, which provides vital information to his or her group and enables the group to decide which location in the Jovian system will be most useful for further research or a potential mission. Each student takes on the role of a specific type of scientist: an engineer, a group leader, or a life-support specialist. Each is assigned to collect information and communicate findings and implications to the group as a whole. What's more, each student has a responsibility to look at the data presented and help make a group decision. We have seen the students make arguments based on evidence and critically weigh which pieces of evidence seem more important. If a student with a particular job function fails to find enough relevant information or overlooks critical evidence, the impact on the team is significant.

The effect of this kind of interaction on the classroom is astounding. We have seen students who had previously been disengaged became more animated and involved in the decision-making process. Because each student needs to communicate critical information to his or her group, it is very difficult for any student to remain unmotivated or to hide within a group. Knowing that everyone has a significant contribution to make, the students rise to the occasion to do their parts well. Other teachers participating in the project, from California to Alabama to Michigan, have told us that students who had previously seemed uninterested in science came alive during this project and showed much greater interest and participation.

Not only do the students have a noticeable response to the curriculum format and activities, but teachers also find aspects of the program invigorating to their own teaching and learning. Teachers who participate in Jupiter Quest undergo a six-day training session that addresses basic radio astronomy, procedures for using the antenna, applications of technology in the classroom, and curriculum development and integration. Teachers need only a working knowledge of computers and a willingness to learn. The training interweaves technology experiences; resources in the form of manuals, software, and Internet sites; experience with specific curriculum lessons; opportunities to collaborate with other educators from across the country; and activities that help integrate the project into each individual teacher's classroom.

The project is tailored to every individual classroom because the materials can be integrated into the existing scope-and-sequence guidelines adopted by each school. The basic queries in Jupiter Quest provide the underlying theme and purpose, while the activities that may be selected vary widely. Depending on the focus of the science classroom, a teacher can choose from a selection of lessons in the areas of life science, physical science, or earth and space science. Teachers select the lessons that best fit their classroom curriculum and map out an individual unit plan that incorporates the quest question, the online antenna experience, data analysis, and the lessons appropriate for the classroom agenda.

The project can run for as little as two to three weeks or can extend for an entire quarter of the school year, depending on the applicability of the material to the specific class. This ensures that the project is part of the main curriculum and that it facilitates the teacher's goals. Some middle schools have approached the project as a grade-level, integrated thematic unit with applications in mathematics, language arts, fine arts, and social studies. Lessons developed for cross-curricular applications have been included in the program materials.

Technology experience varies from teacher to teacher and among students. One goal of the project is to make sure that the teachers and students are comfortable with the technology required to be successful in the project. These technologies include e-mail systems, file transfer protocol sites, the XWindows software that is used to share graphic screens while running the antenna, the use of spreadsheets for calculation and graphing features, and sending, receiving, and using of graphic files for teaching and presentations. In this way, the project provides a natural use for many technological skills and enhances teacher and student knowledge of applications of technology both within and outside the classroom.

After the initial training, support is available through the Lewis Center for Educational Research for getting connected with the software, planning observation sessions, and implementing the curriculum. Establishing a good connection to each school is as individualized a process as developing that school's use of the curriculum. The Lewis Center is committed to supporting the participants and ironing out any technological snags that threaten the project's success for both teachers and students. Teachers can also communicate with other teachers who have implemented the program and learn how they handled specific problems, and students can communicate with their peers and with the scientists involved in the project. The Jupiter Quest is truly distance education in action.

The Jupiter Quest in the Classroom

The GAVRT antenna, also called Deep Space Station 12 (DSS-12), sits in the Mojave Desert among the telescopes of the Goldstone facility, one of three facilities that make up NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN). The DSN is used for radio astronomy, radar astronomy, and communication with deep space probes. DSS-12 is a giant parabolic collecting dish, 34 meters in diameter, that collects radio energy emitted from Jupiter by natural processes and can be controlled remotely from the Mission Control computer at the Lewis Center.

Engineers and astronomers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed special software that gives students real-time control of the antenna via the Internet from a classroom computer. Data are collected and calibrated by students, then included in the professional scientific database of Jupiter observations. The technology required to deliver this capability to the classroom is accessible for most schools. Each participating classroom needs one personal computer that has at least a Pentium I processor; a connection to the Internet that provides at least 112 K of unshared bandwidth, and a telephone. For schools, the limiting factor is generally the access to sufficient Internet bandwidth.

Data are collected manually by students in the classroom and automatically by the Mission Control computer. Data collected manually in the classroom are actually a representative sampling of the data before they are corrected for such phenomena as sagging of the antenna dish at various observation angles and the thickness of atmosphere at the time of the observation. Data collected by the Mission Control computer are analyzed by technicians at the Lewis Center for Educational Research and by scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and placed on a special Internet site, where they can be retrieved by any teacher in the project. The computer data can then be analyzed further or compared to manually collected data in a series of lessons created by teachers during the development stages of Jupiter Quest.

Data collected during a typical observation give the students two types of information. At 8480 MHz, students find that the atmospheric temperature of Jupiter is approximately 210°K. Students can convert this temperature to Celsius and then to Fahrenheit to gain a better understanding of what this means for humans. At 2295 MHz, students see the fluctuations in the brightness of the planet's synchrotron radiation. (Synchrotron radiation is a nonthermal radiation that results when electrons are caught in Jupiter's magnetic field and then spiral up and down the magnetic field at nearly the speed of light, a process that releases photons.) These two types of data are incorporated into the hypothetical mission that students plan.

Let's look at a hypothetical mission to the Jovian system in a specific classroom. Middle-schoolers at University Public School in Detroit used data collected during their observation sessions to create a more complete picture of what the Jovian system is like. The students were pursuing the question of what location within the Jovian system might be the best selection for onsite study, manned or unmanned. Understanding that Jupiter itself is a gaseous planet and not a likely location for a surface landing, the students focused on its four largest moons. They compared the features of the individual moons and assessed what aspects of each might be beneficial to the mission and which would pose challenges to the safety of the lander and its equipment. They were, in effect, weighing the pros and cons of each location, based upon evidence that they were able to discover about each moon.

Data from the antenna experiments gave the students some insight into the effects that such a strong magnetosphere and the resulting synchrotron radiation might have on nearby moons, spacecraft equipment, and, ultimately on human beings. They asked questions about what type of material might withstand the radiation best. Would it be a metal? A new composite material? Or something else? This line of questioning led the class to contact a local materials scientist to see what they could find out about new composite materials. While these discussions were scientifically limited by the level of understanding of middle-schoolers, they nonetheless opened up a world of questions that students were excited about and able to pursue to the extent of their individual abilities. From a teachers perspective, this was very exciting because the students were not intimidated by the information, and they even became comfortable with the answer "We don't know that yet."

As science teachers, our aim must be more than simply exposing our students to scientific information. Our goal should be to expose them to the scientific process and the excitement of discovery. The scientific process requires the ability to think like a scientist: to ask good questions, to consider all possibilities, to refuse to be thwarted when the data are problematic, and to continue to explore until an answer is found.

In the Jupiter Quest, we have seen the excitement in students' faces - from the middle school through high school and across cultural and economic lines. And we have seen clear changes in their thought processes. Science is a journey of discovery that our students do not usually take because they do not even know that there is a journey to be taken. Through the Jupiter Quest, students and teachers not only gain access to a very sophisticated scientific instrument, but they also take their first steps on the path to discovery.

KELLY A. BOLLMAN taught middle-grade science from 1994 to 1998 at Wayne State University's University Public School in Detroit, and she has participated in the Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) Project since 1997. She currently serves with the Lewis Center for Educational Research from her home in Lavonia, Michigan as a curriculum developer for the GAVRT Project.
MARK H. RODGERS taught physics, chemistry, and general science at Glendora High School, Glendora, California, from 1992 through 2000. He is currently an assistant principal at Ramona Middle School, La Verne, California. He has participated in the GAVRT Project since 1998 as a curriculum and technology consultant.
ROBERT L. MAULLER is a retired educator, a GAVRT volunteer, and a Kappan Core member who lives in Pasadena, California.

For additional information
Science Scope

Science Scope

Science Scope, November/December 2000 Meanwhile, back on Earth by Bob Riddle (page 54). GAVRT is mentioned as students collect data from their classrooms while observing the gas giant Jupiter as the Cassini spacecraft flies by.

Meanwhile, back on Earth

While the spacecraft are collecting data from Jupiter's neighborhood, middle and high school students and their teachers will be observing the gas giant from Earth. These students will be participating in the Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) science education project, which is a partnership involving the Lewis Center for Educational Research (LCER) in Apple Valley, California, the Telecommunications and Mission Operations Director (TMOD) at JPL, and the Apple Valley Unified School District.

Science Scope Magazine

Nov / Dec 2000 issue

Volume 24, Number 3


Published courtesy of Science Scope, a journal of the National Science Teachers Association (November/December 2000).
Office of Space Science

Office of Space Science

Office of Space Science, FY 2000 GAVRT is mentioned in this Annual Report's executive summary. A photo of DSS-12 is included in the article. (page 9), Science News, Space Missions, December 3, 2000 Students to Help Cassini Study Jupiter by Vanessa Thomas. As Cassini approaches Jupiter, middle and high school students are making Earth-based observations to aid the spacecraft's investigation of the planet.

Space Missions12/3/2000

Students to Help Cassini Study Jupiter

As Cassini approaches Jupiter, middle and high school students are making Earth-based observations to aid the spacecraft's investigation of the planet. by Vanessa Thomas
During the next few months, students at 25 middle schools and high schools in 13 states will be controlling radio telescopes in California and collecting data to help the Cassini spacecraft study Jupiter. The project is part of a hands-on program that teaches students about science through radio astronomy. From their classrooms, the students use the Internet to direct two 112-foot (34-meter) radio dishes at the Goldstone tracking station in California's Mojave Desert. Goldstone is part of the worldwide Deep Space Network (DSN)
that communicates with spacecraft during their journeys through the solar system. Following the construction of newer, more powerful radio telescopes, NASA decided to decommission one of the Goldstone dishes that had been working for DSN since the early 1960s. In 1997, rather than dismantling the telescope, NASA donated the dish to the Apple Valley Science and Technology Center (now the Lewis Center for Educational Research) for an educational program that would inspire science students across the country.
The students are using the Goldstone-Apple Valley Radio Telescope (and a second dish, added to the project later) to monitor natural radio emissions from Jupiter's atmosphere and radiation belts. These observations will be used to interpret measurements that Cassini will make in January. "We know that the radio emission from Jupiter's radiation belts changes over time, and we want to know whether Cassini is looking on a normal day or an unusual day," explained Scott Bolton, a science team member for Cassini. "The observations the students collect will be our primary gauge to determine the state of the radiation belts."

Data collected by the students will also help calibrate the spacecraft's radio equipment in preparation for Cassini's examination of its main target, Saturn, in 2004.

"I've found that students who participate in this really show a lot of interest in science, and it whets their appetites," said Joe Monaco, Earth sciences teacher at Redlands East Valley High School in California. One of his pupils, junior Brian Dansereau, said he likes the vibrancy of real research in contrast to lessons from a textbook. "It inspires you to go on and do more in science," Brian said.

Organizations and Strategies in Astronomy IV

Organizations and Strategies in Astronomy IV

Jim Roller and Dr. Michael Klein coauthored a chapter in the "Organizations and Strategies in Astronomy IV" astrophysics and space science library book published in December 2003. Andre' Heck is the editor at Kluwer Academic Publishers in France. The chapter is entitled, "The GAVRT Partnership: Bringing the Universe to K-12 Classrooms". This book could be used by researchers, teachers, and students interested in astronomy or space related science.