To Telescope or Not To Telescope?

  • Tim Slater University of Wyoming and CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research


With the rapidly growing number of Internet-accessible and Internet-controlled research-grade telescopes becoming available, astronomy educators are rushing to create authentic research-programs for students that leverage these new resources. To date, the most successful programs are those that focus on upper-level science-focused students or highly talented high school students with the unifying end-product goal of published research papers.  Discipline-based astronomy education researchers have not yet fully vetted the educational benefits of using these Internet-telescopes, although some early work points toward positive impacts. At the same time, large-enrollment astronomy educators interested in how to scale the use of remotely controlled telescopes and robotically controlled telescopes for large number of non-science majoring students and future teachers are finding few usable classroom-ready solutions.  At this point in the evolution of robotic and remote controlled telescopes for formal education, astronomy educators are tacitly assuming that all students should benefit from using telescopes in any form, yet the risk-benefit analysis has not been thoroughly debated within the community to ascertain if the time and energy required for the broader community of all students to use telescopes is worth it.