Developing an Undergraduate Astronomical Research Program
Time-series astronomical photometry is an area of scientific research well suited to amateurs and undergraduates, and their backyard and campus observatories. I describe two past one-semester community college research programs, one six year ago and one last fall (2006), as well as a program planned for this coming fall (2007). The 2001 program, a course at Central Arizona College, utilized a robotic telescope at the Fairborn Observatory. Results were presented at the 200th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. This past fall, three students, in a 17-week, one-semester course at Cuesta College, were able to plan a research program,
make several thousand CCD photometric observations, reduce and analyze their data, write up their results and, on the last day of class, send their paper off to a refereed journal, the JAAVSO. A course is being offered this coming fall (2007) that will involve about a dozen students (including high school students), several local amateur astronomers, and at least three CCD-equipped semi-automatic telescopes. Potential solutions to “scaling up” challenges created by increased class size are discussed.