Mission Name:
Astro-H Education and Public Outreach Program

Project Description:
Astro-H is an X-ray observatory, scheduled for launch in 2015, which will explore extreme phenomena such as black holes, supernovae explosions, and clusters of galaxies. Astro-H is Japan's sixth X-ray astronomy mission, and is being developed at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (ISAS/JAXA) with significant collaboration from U.S. (NASA/GSFC) and Japanese institutions. The Astro-H Education and Public Outreach portfolio will include elements to cover a range of audiences from formal and informal to outreach to the general public.

Astro-H E/PO will endeavor to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education by developing curriculum materials based on Astro-H technology and science. The Astro-H E/PO program will provide professional development for teachers across the country through workshops at national and regional meetings by team members and the Astro-H Educator Ambassador (EA). All education materials will be disseminated through the Astro-H public website hosted at NASA/GSFC.

The Astro-H E/PO team will develop authentic data-in-the-classroom tutorials extensions for Student Hera using Astro-H data. Student Hera was developed by NASA’s Imagine the Universe! team and enables high school students to analyze archival astrophysics data. This program consists of web-based tutorials that walk the student through the science background and data analysis steps for manipulating and understanding timing, imaging, and spectral data. Students use a tailored version of the HEASARC’s Hera tools that were originally designed for scientists. Students can determine the orbital period of a binary system using data from the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, explore a supernova remnant image in different X-ray wavelengths using images from the Röntgen Satellite and the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory, and characterize a black hole’s latest snack using Suzaku data.

The Astro-H E/PO team will conduct an evaluation of the existing Student Hera tools and tutorials. Then, using lessons learned from the evaluation, Student Hera will be revised and new tutorials will be designed using new Astro-H data and results. Astro-H Student Hera tutorials will emphasize analysis techniques that connect to both mathematics and statistics.

Astro-H will leverage the Afterschool Universe program to reach and inspire children around the country. Afterschool Universe is a 12-session afterschool program designed for middle school aged children. Using hands-on activities and a variety of interdisciplinary learning techniques, it covers topics in astronomy beyond the solar system, such as objects in the universe, telescopes, life cycles of stars, origin of the chemical elements, etc. Astro-H will partner with NASA's Afterschool Universe program and Fort Hays State University (FHSU) in rural Kansas to train pre-service teachers in basic beyond-the-solar-system astronomy topics, and to educate and inspire elementary-aged children as the first step in the ladder of astronomy literacy and engaging children in space science and NASA. The Astro-H E/PO program will garner public awareness of the mission and STEM topics by connecting the public directly to the scientists and engineers developing the mission. The team will develop a website under the theme of collaborating across cultures. In addition to web pages dedicated the science and technology of Astro-H, the site will have web features highlighting the scientists and engineers on the Astro-H team. Some of the web feature themes will mirror those found in the formal education materials, so teachers may use web features to augment the curriculum materials.

Lead Institution:
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

We will be partnering with Fort Hays State University in Kansas to adapt the Afterschool Universe curriculum for elementary-aged children. There has been a significant demand for astronomy out-of-school-time curriculum for this age group, and implementers frequently ask if the existing program can be offered for younger audiences. We will provide Fort Hays State University with training on the current, middle-school-level curriculum, and they will provide elementary curriculum experts to adapt the materials for younger audiences.

We also partner with Cornerstone Evaluation Associates to assess the effectiveness and impact of the program.

Astro-H does not yet have numbers because the program is just ramping up -- we are in the development and pre-development stage for all of its programs.