Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Interactive, Collaborative Science Via the 'Net: Live from the Hubble Space Telescope

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Interactive, Collaborative Science Via the 'Net: Live from the Hubble Space Telescope

Article excerpt

During the week of April 15-19,1996, over 60 schools collaborated in making scientific observations of their local weather conditions. These results were combined and displayed (via the Internet) daily, and compared to professional reports and satellite photographs. This activity was just a small part of the Passport to Knowledge Project "Live from the Hubble Space Telescope" (LHST).

LHST consisted of both live television broadcasts and an Internet presence. During the three television broadcasts made over the 1995-1996 academic year, students from around the world were able to select targets for the Hubble Space Telescope to investigate. They studied the theory and operation of the telescope; learned about our solar system and weather on Earth and other planets; analyzed data; discussed and debated results; and interacted with scientists, technicians and other experts directly.

LHST was the latest in a series of productions from Passport to Knowledge. Others have included "Live from Antarctica" and "Live from the Stratosphere." The Internet portion of Passport to Knowledge productions are run by the NASA K-12 Internet Initiative project. Other productions of this group include "Night of the Comet" and "Online from Jupiter."

The Internet portion of the production included a Web site, supported by e-mail distribution lists, plus FTP and Gopher sites. In this manner, even those with limited connectivity could receive some of the materials. The materials distributed include teachers' guides and lesson plans, background information, biographies and diaries of project personnel. E-mail to project personnel was screened by NASA K-12 project's Smart-Filter system, which uses a combination of volunteer labor and computer technology.

* The Weather Activity

The planets chosen for study in LHST were Neptune and Pluto. On both of these planets, weather is a major factor of interest. This is especially true of Neptune, where clouds and storms appear occasionally. So far, all of our observations of Neptune are photographs. One topic of interest is, How can one predict or determine weather from satellite photographs? Another topic of interest would be, How does the weather on Earth and other planets differ?

Any good experiment deserves a little control, and a hands-on collaborative weather activity has some excellent benefits. The equipment is inexpensive and can be scrounged, purchased or made. The data gathered were temperature, wind direction and speed, cloud cover amount and cloud type. The only other requirements were a safe, supervised place to make the measurements, and an Internet connection to report and retrieve results.

* Methods

Both registration and reporting results were via e-mail. Optionally, a Web-based CGI form was available. Volunteer schools were asked to provide contact information as well as the longitude and latitude of their recording station. Over 60 schools registered (see Figure 1, Location Map).


On every day for a week (Monday through Friday), observations of temperature, cloud cover and wind were sent to the collection point (an e-mail address). This information was processed manually into an ASCII data file, which was used to create maps in both Postscript and .GIF format. The data and maps, along with maps prepared by The Weather Channel, were prepared and made available within 24 hours of submission. (See Technical Information Box sidebar for details.)

* Results

As you can see from the maps included (Figures 2a-2b, 3a-3b), there was remarkably good agreement between our student observers and our professional forecasters, as well as our satellite and our ground based cloud observers.


But the fact that the student observers were accurate rate is beside the point; they gained a lot from the activity. …

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