NOAO-Trained Teachers to Observe with Spitzer
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National Optical Astronomy Observatory Press Release
For Release: January 10, 2005

The National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) has teamed with the Spitzer Science Center (SSC) to offer a dozen graduates from NOAO's advanced teacher professional development program a unique chance to make research-quality observations with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

Known as the "NASA Spitzer Space Telescope Observing Program for Students and Teachers," the project was germinated in a series of informal discussions that began in earnest at the January 2004 American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Atlanta. Applications were solicited in September 2004, and 12 teachers from the NOAO Research Based Science Education (RBSE) and its successor, Teacher Leaders in Research Based Science Education (TLRBSE), were selected from 37 highly qualified applicants.

Just a few weeks after their selection, the teachers got started with a kick-off workshop in Tucson in mid-November 2004. The teachers are now in San Diego attending the 205th meeting of the AAS, where they are receiving training from the SSC Observer Support Team on telescope and instrument capabilities, and consulting with potential scientific collaborators from NOAO and SSC to refine their planned observations in the spring.

"The Spitzer outreach team was interested because they know that Spitzer observing opportunities are a valuable resource, and they wanted to make the most out of the director's discretionary time reserved for educational outreach," says Stephen Pompea, manager of science education and an astronomer at NOAO. "We saw a chance to offer another exciting and challenging research experience to our RBSE/TLBSE community, including the chance to work closely with some of the best infrared astronomers in the world."

Key staff members involved with the NOAO side of the program include Pompea, Steven Croft, and Connie Walker from the NOAO educational outreach group; Don McCarthy of the University of Arizona; and, Steve Howell, John Feldmeier, Letizia Stanghellini, and Richard Shaw from the NOAO scientific staff, with more astronomers likely to be added. Doris Daou of the SSC outreach staff is managing the SSC side of the program, in coordination with SSC Director Thomas Soifer. SSC science staff will be involved as sponsors for each team of teachers.

"We wanted to bring the Spitzer Space Telescope mission to the classroom, and give this great opportunity to teachers and students from all over the country," Soifer said. "This effort is another example of how NASA and its projects help prepare the next generation of American scientists, and space scientists in particular."

Once the observations are taken during the next six months (over a total of three hours of director's discretionary observing time), the teachers will visit the SSC in Pasadena, CA, to meet again with Spitzer scientists and start working on the data.

The RBSE/TLRBSE teachers selected for the Spitzer project are:

Teacher NameSchool NameLocation
Jeff AdkinsDeer Valley High SchoolAntioch, CA
Howard ChunCranston High SchoolEast Cranston, RI
Lauren ChappleTraverse City East Junior High SchoolTraverse City, MI
Harlan DevoreCape Fear High SchoolFayetteville, NC
Anthony MarantoPhillips Exeter AcademyExeter, NH
Steve RappLinwood Holton Governor's SchoolAbingdon, VA
Theresa RoelofsenBassick High SchoolBridgeport, CT
Babs SepulvedaLincoln High SchoolStockton, CA
Linda StefaniakAllentown High SchoolAllentown, NJ
Timothy SpuckOil City Area Sr. High SchoolOil City, PA
Beth ThomasEast Middle SchoolGreat Falls, MT
Cynthia WeehlerLuther Burbank High SchoolSan Antonio, TX

A poster paper on the Spitzer teacher-student observing program [Session 96.01] is being presented on Wednesday, January 12, at the AAS meeting by Daou, Pompea and Michelle Thaller, manager of the SSC outreach office, in the exhibit hall starting at 9:20 a.m. PST. The teachers are also available for interviews earlier in the week.

Watch the TLRBSE web page for more news on the program.

NOAO is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), Inc., under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center.

Douglas Isbell
Public Information Officer
National Optical Astronomy Observatory
Phone: 520/318-8214
Whitney Clavin (626) 395-1877
Jet Propulsion Laboratory