Exploring the Hidden Structure of Astronomical Images: A “Pixelated” View of Solar System and Deep Space Features!
We describe activities created to help student participants in Project ITEAMS (Innovative Technology-Enabled Astronomy for Middle Schools) develop a deeper understanding of picture elements (pixels), image creation, and analysis of the recorded data. ITEAMS is an out-of-school time (OST) program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with the goal of inspiring grades 5–8 students to pursue ICT (Information and Communications Technology) and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers and increasing their 21st century work skills. ITEAMS students access our department's MicroObservatory, online telescopes from home and school to request solar system and deep space images taken during the nighttime hours, and then receive an email the next morning notifying them their requested images are available for retrieval. Once retrieved, students use the project software to process the images. We found image processing became more meaningful when students developed some understanding of what a pixel is, what causes different saturation levels of the pixels, and the nature of the data stored in the pixels. We developed a set of hands-on explorations for students to investigate pixels, sensors, and data transmission. Anecdotal evidence suggests students increased their understanding of the nature of pixels, the underlying technology, how the data are transmitted, and a better sense of how processing astronomical images changes the way data are represented but does not change the data itself.
Bruce Ward, R., Sienkiewicz, F., Sadler, P., Antonucci, P., & Miller, J. 2013, Astronomy Education Review, 12(1)
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