Applets, Shareware, and Other Web-based Exercises
Freeware and Software
High school teacher Bill Drennon reviews and shows where to download
astronomy programs, such as an H-R Diagram Calculator; has links
to other astronomy shareware.
Includes "calculation exercises" (e.g. calculating results
of an impact by a comet or asteroids and getting a feel for cosmic
distances), viewers, orbit exercises and more, by Douglas Hamilton
& Mike Asbury at the U. of Maryland.
Karen Strom (U. of Massachusetts) has written a guide to the characteristics
of blackbody radiation, which includes several interactive VRML
and Java exercises.
Greg Bothun and his colleagues at the U. of Oregon offer a range
of java aplets, hypertext guides, and other innovative materials,
but they are often left unfinished as new projects or ideas claim
the developers' attention.
Excel Spreadsheets for Physics and Astronomy
Excel exercises and demonstrations from a collection kept at Northwestern
University: blackbody curves, Kepler’s Laws, Bohr Model,
period of Io, etc.
Applets for Courses at Amherst
George Greenstein and Amy Lovell have a number of nice aplets
for their special topics classes.
Applets for Teaching Astrophysics
Somewhat more advanced applets
and simulations, particularly involving orbits and spectral lines,
by Joachim Koppen.
Web-based astronomical image processing program by John Simonetti
of Virginia Tech.
Astronomy Education Pages
Kevin Lee and his colleagues at the U. of Nebraska are developing
a number of modules with simulations or explorations of astrophysical
phenomena – applets and collaborative, interactive classroom
A series of applets from Wolfgang Christian & others at Davidson
on basic physics topics, including a number that are relevant
to astronomy. Now available as a book and CD as well.
The Light Inquiry through Experiment project from Ken Brecher
and co-workers at Boston University includes a range of applets
to encourage study and experimentation with light, electromagnetic
waves in general, and spectra.
Science Data Access Page
A set of useful links by Tim Slater (Montana State) to current
astronomical data on the web, displayed in visual terms that students
can use. Includes solar activity, weather on the planets, etc.
of Colorado Applets
Dick McCray and others have assembled some simulations and visualizations
of the Drake equation, extra-solar planet finding, radiative transfer,
Simulations in Astronomy
Four stellar aplets by Terry Herter of Cornell, including evolution
on the H-R diagram.
Interdisciplinary Approaches to Astronomy Teaching
David Morrison moderates this resource guide and discussion group
for those teaching courses with life in the universe as a theme.
Pseudo-science: A Skeptic's Resource List
An annotated list of written and web resources for dealing with
astrology, UFO's, the Face on Mars, ancient astronauts, and many
similar fringe topics.
Hartmann's Paintings and Astronomy Projects at Planetary Science
A gallery of astronomer/artist Hartmann's superb (and accurate)
paintings, with some examples of how they can be used to illuminate
and explain current research in planetary science.
A short guide to collections of astronomical poetry.
Fiction Stories with Good Astronomy and Physics
A listing of novels and stories organized by topic in astronomy,
with a brief descriptions of each.
On the uses of astronomically inspired music in education, with
The Astronomy of Many Cultures
A resource guide for teaching about the astronomy of diverse civilizations.
Organizations that Offer Resources for Instructors
Association of Physics Teachers
Professional society for those who teach physics in college and
high school. Has a catalog of slides and films strips (with only
a few about astronomy); publishes journals and sponsors conferences;
has an active committee on astronomy education, which organizes
astronomy sessions at their meetings.
The professional organization for astronomers in the U.S. Has
an education office, an education advisory committee, a useful
web site, and programs in education at their meetings (including
"Astronomy 101: A Continuing Dialogue). See their web site for
the current list of activities and coordinators.
Society of the Pacific
Despite its name, the A.S.P. is a national
and international organization, and has a special dedication to
education at all levels. It has a web-based catalog of slide sets,
books, and other materials for teaching astronomy. It also sponsors
a series of "Cosmos in the Classroom" conferences on teaching
introductory astronomy; and has a variety of other educational
programs. Its web site offers a wide range of useful resource
materials on astronomy education.
This is an on-line journal and magazine for papers and articles
relating to astronomy education. Its back issues (see the other
appendices) are starting to be a fine library of serious information
about teaching astronomy.
Astronomy is the largest circulation popular astronomy
magazine; it also has a line of astronomy books for amateurs and
student observers; and sells posters and observing aids by mail.
for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP)
An organization of scientists, educators, magicians, and other
skeptics that seeks to inform the public about the rational perspective
on such pseudo-sciences as astrology, UFO's, crop circles, ancient
astronauts, etc. Publishes The Skeptical Inquirer magazine,
full of great debunking articles, and holds meetings and workshops
around the country. A related publishing house, Prometheus Books,
issues outstanding skeptical books.
(Contemporary Laboratory Experiences in Astronomy)
project developing excellent computer-based college-level astronomy
lab exercises for both Mac and Windows platforms.
company that produces and distributes videotapes and slide sets
on space related subjects; some in cooperation with the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory and Space Telescope Science Institute. Their caption
materials are usually too brief to be especially helpful to beginners,
but their prices are quite reasonable.
Dark Sky Association
Small non-profit organization devoted
to fighting light pollution and educating politicians, lighting
engineers, and the public about the importance of not spilling
light where it will interfere with astronomical observations.
They have excellent information sheets for teachers, students,
If your college has a planetarium, you may be interested in this
organization of planetarium educators, which has many subgroups
and meetings in different parts of the world. Their journal, The
Planetarian, has its own website, full of useful educational
This small company, started by Harvard's Phil Sadler, distributes
the StarLab portable planetarium, a terrific solar viewer, and some
inexpensive hands-on astronomy education kits.
and Planetary Institute
This research institute produces sets
of very nice slide sets on solar system phenomena with good caption
booklets, as well as technical conference proceedings for their
Office of Space Science Education Office
This branch of NASA has a large and complex initiative requiring
an educational component to many missions and programs. While
most of the educational programs are aimed at K-12, a good number
of their materials and activities can fruitfully be adapted to
introductory college teaching. The web site above is a good entry
point into the many sites and projects. See also: http://teachspacescience.org
(which is a rudimentary database that is aiming to evaluate and
organize the many materials OSS projects are creating).
Science Teachers' Association
While this organization is mostly
for teachers in grades K-12, it does have a subgroup and a journal
for college teaching. Their catalog has a number of elementary
astronomy education materials that can sometimes be adapted for
Large national membership organization founded
by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and others; lobbies for more planetary
exploration and SETI; publishes a colorful magazine and has a
modest catalog of reasonably priced slides, videos, & gift
This company publishes Sky & Telescope, the premier
magazine for serious amateur astronomers, and has an excellent
catalog of atlases, sky observing software, and other observing
aids, as well as some teaching aids. Their web site is one of
the most useful on the Web, with excellent observing information,
a database of amateur groups around the country, news items, links,
and much more.
publisher dedicated to producing specialized books and software
for astronomical observers.
Miscellaneous Sites of Interest
This network of resource materials for physics and astronomy teaching
is a joint project of several physics and astronomy organizations.
An Astronomy 101 resource database is in the works.
An eloquent indictment of the rush to put courses on the web,
and the commercial/political interests behind it, by an iconoclastic
Comparison of Course Management Systems
This site gives comparisons
of features, costs, and efficacy of course management software,
including commercial and free packages.
Voting Systems for Class Use: An Overview
A nice introduction to personalized response or student voting
systems by Steve Draper of Glasgow University..
Although printing it out is not convenient, here is the text of
a widely praised book called How People Learn: Brain, Mind,
Experience, and School, published by the National Academies
Press. It reviews the implications of the latest research on learning
for how we can best teach science and math.
This is an open database of resources for teaching or enhancing
college courses in many fields. The astronomy database had 141
entries as of October 2004. A much larger database for all sciences
can be found at the National Science Digital Library: http://nsdl.org/
of College Astronomy Instructors
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific is actively conducting
a survey of instructors who teach astronomy at the non-research
oriented institutions, including state colleges, liberal arts
colleges, community colleges, adult and extension schools, etc.
The form can be printed out. Results from the survey can be found
a University Course Site
These web pages from the U. of Texas Center for Teaching Effectiveness
include articles, guidelines, and web links for those just starting
to teach or those who want to improve.
Physics: Figuring Out What Works
An article from Physics Today summarizing what research
into teaching and learning in physics has been showing our colleagues
in that discipline.