Astronomers, like all scientists, gather data. In astronomy, this data is accessible to both sighted individuals and to those who are blind or have low vision. Unfortunately, the tools to analyze this data are not very accessible. The IDATA project, Innovators Developing Accessible Tools for Astronomy, has made a good start to changing this problem. The results are the product of both sighted and BVI (blind and visually impaired) individuals.

Using the results of the IDATA project, this Exploration finds the rotation rate of an asteroid by targeting the following goals:

A) Astronomy Concepts: You will use accessible, hands-on activities to understand the concepts related to asteroid research in astronomy.

B) Computational Thinking Skills: An accessible computer programming language, Quorum, will be used to teach you the basics of computer programming. As your computational thinking skills grow, we will explore how computer programming is used in astronomy.

C) Real Data Collection and Analysis: Special software programs are used to collect and process data in astronomy. You will use an accessible program, Afterglow Access, to analyze data from an asteroid.

This Exploration is divided into three Sections.

Section 1: Using Quorum to take Images with Skynet Telescopes

Section 2: Examining Images with Afterglow Access

Section 3: Analyzing Images to Find an Asteroid’s Rotation Rate

Before you begin the Exploration, there are several accessible hands-on activities that will help you with the understanding of how the energy from an object in space becomes data stored in a computer. These same activities are also available in the SJS Resources – the link is located in the banner at the top of each Skynet Junior Scholars page. Once you have clicked on the Resources button and have arrived at the resource page, click the button “For IDATA”, which is found on the right, under the Logout button.

The concepts introduced in these hands-on activities are:

1. Wave properties

2. The Electromagnetic Spectrum

3. CCD cameras attached to telescopes

Each activity includes an introduction by an astronomer, either with a pre-video, or a video embedded in the activity itself.

#1 Waves: Introduced by astronomer Nic Bonne

After listening to Nic, have a discussion about how you can show the idea of a tranverse wave in a non-visual manner. Then do the following activity:

A second activity for waves uses 3D models. The resources and instructions are found here:

#2 Electromagnetic Spectrum: Introduced by astronomer Dawn Erb

In two short videos, Dawn tells how she got interested in astronomy, and how the electromagnetic spectrum is important to her work. You then will construct a tactile representation of the spectrum.

#3 CCD camera: Introduced by astronomer Kathyrn Williamson

There are two short videos embedded in the resource. This resource also explains filters.