Interactive Software Modules For Introductory Astronomy

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Session 88 -- Teaching Astronomy
Display presentation, Friday, January 14, 9:30-6:45, Salons I/II Room (Crystal Gateway)

[88.04] Interactive Software Modules For Introductory Astronomy

V.Gorjian, S.Schimpf, Mark Morris, M.Malkan (Department of Astronomy, UCLA)

In an attempt to offer undergraduate students a means of visualizing some of the dynamical, geometric, evolutionary, and spectroscopic concepts encountered in introductory astronomy and astrophysics courses, we have developed a set of ten computer modules intended for the interactive investigation of these concepts in a learning center equipped with a cluster of Unix-based workstations. We present six of these software teaching tools: Galaxy (rotation curves), Redshift (line identifications, redshift determinations, and construction of a Hubble plot), Sky View (an on-screen planetarium), Stellar Evolution (dynamic trajectories in the HR diagram), Parallax (parallactic ellipses and proper motions), and Binaries (eclipsing binary light curves and projected appearances evolving with orbital phase). Developed for the X-windows interface on Unix-based workstations for maximum portability and speed, these programs, along with accompanying instruction sets, guide the student through multi-step exercises designed to demonstrate these basic ideas. The sophistication of the modules is advanced enough to permit their utilization in courses spanning a wide range of skill levels with suitable tailoring of the instruction sets. The use of these modules in lower division astronomy and astrophysics classes at UCLA has been met with positive student reviews. We anticipate increased usage as the package of modules grows. Upon request, it can be exported to other institutions. The development of the package has been supported by NSF.

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