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Workshop will take teachers and students to edge of universe and back

"Catch On To space Science and Astronomy"

COTSA logoOct. 6, 1998: What's terrible enough to kill a dinosaur?

Do black holes have an appetite?

How do you find a space alien?

Answers to these and other questions will be offered at a two-day workshop planned for North Alabama high school teachers and students in late October.

"The motivation behind the workshop is to present new discoveries from space science and astronomy from the past 10 to 15 years which have resulted from many NASA-related and ground-based efforts," explained Dr. Alan Harmon, the conference organizer. Harmon works as a gamma-ray astrophysicist in the Space Sciences Laboratory at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

"We believe that the teachers and students will find this material exciting if presented in an entertaining and informal atmosphere. We hope this will lead them to consider science or technology at the college level."

The workshop - Catch On To Space Science and Astronomy (COTSA) - will be held Oct. 23-24 at the Von Braun Center in downtown Huntsville.

"I am happy to say it will be free for the participants, thanks both to NASA and local corporate sponsors," said co-chair Maitrayee Sahi of the Universities Space Research Association which is helping organize the workshop. "Teachers and students will receive a certificate for the participation, and the teachers will be sent a CD-ROM containing a guide for the workshop materials which can be used in the classroom."

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COTSA's topics include:

  • A Stellar Revue (a star's life from birth to death)
  • Searching for Extraterrestrials Near and Far - The chances for life on other worlds, and what we can learn from life on Earth,
  • Dinosaurs and Meteor Strikes - How space can change life on Earth in a big way
  • What About Those Photons - How we see the universe
  • Black Holes, Blazars, and Quasars - The "fix'd heavens" are anything but - it's active out there!
  • Working in High Places - What does it take to be a part of the space team?

Activities will comprise a combination of lectures, hands-on activities, displays and exhibits, and an evening at the Von Braun Astronomical Society Planetarium and Observatory.

There will be two guest speakers. Dr. Philip Charles is head of the Astrophysics Department at Oxford University, in the United Kingdom. He was involved in the discovery of the black-hole nature of V404 Cygnus. Much of his subsequent work has been devoted to obtaining as many accurate mass estimates of these black hole candidates as possible in order to perform the most detailed tests of physics in their neighborhood.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Carol Strong of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She often entertains her students with star viewing parties and other "gee whiz" physics demonstrations. Her hobbies include snorkeling, aerobics and quilting.

COTSA is open to high school students and teachers (grades 10-12) in the North Alabama area. There is no registration fee, but enrollment is limited to the first 100 applicants on a first-come, first-served basis. Advanced registration is required. Additional information is available at the COTSA home page, or contact Dr. Alan Harmon. or Maitrayee Sahi.

Funding for COTSA is provided by NASA's Initiative to Develop Education through Astronomy and Space Science (IDEAS) under the auspices of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Web links

COTSA home page

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NASA's Office of Space Sciencepress releases and other news related to NASA and astrophysics


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Author: Dave Dooling
Curator: Bryan Walls
NASA Official: John M. Horack

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