New Mexico Immersion: PY 160 Introduction to Astrophotography
This field based course had students apply basic astronomy knowledge, telescope operation, and observing techniques to astrophotography and digital image processing. The purpose of this course was to allow students the opporunity to gain and apply scientific techiques related to astronomy. The City of Rocks State Park became home to both the students and faculty that went on the trip.
During the day time, little can be done with optical astronomy. It was during that time that students were able to be immersed in the local (and past) culture. Performing petroglyph searches of our camping site and a research site turned up several intresting objects. A trip to the Gala Cliff Dwellings showed how a different culture lived hundreds of year ago.\
(Part of the Very Large Array (VLA) system )
This trip was capped off by a trip to the Very Large Array, a facility that is part of the National Radio Observatory system. However, the class did not end there. Since this class was designed to promote learning not only inside the classroom, but outside as well, students were responsible for creating their own project to work on in New Mexico as well as on thier own once they returned. There were a diverse range of topics chosen by students which invovled everything from taking images and researching different facets of celestial bodies, to using photographed objects as the source of inspiration for the composition of a choral piece, to researching ancient cultures and their use of astronomy.
Since public outreach is an important part of not only astronomy but the college experience as well, students were given the chance to do that as part of this class. While in New Mexico, together with the City of Rocks State Park, we held a public observing night which had approximately fifty people attended. Also, details of our trip, experiences, and discoveries were presented to different places closer to home. As part of some students projects, presentation have been planned, or have already been given to the Kaskaskia Archeological Society, elementary school classes, concerts, and at Millikin itself.
(Ken Mentzer taking GPS readings on an ancient solar calendar)