Astronomy Laboratory Experiences in the FullDome Digistar 5 Planetarium Environment


  • Shaukat Goderya Programs for Astronomy Education and Research, Tarleton State University


College level astronomy is typically offered as a laboratory-based introductory level course for non-science majors. In comparison to a typical physics laboratory where there is a large choice of equipment available for physics experiments, there is only a limited number of setups that can be used for nighttime astronomy activities. Furthermore, many astronomy events require time to collect data and this can be challenging in three-hour lab periods. Most instructors use a mix of different mediums like computer software, internet, and workbook style labs mixed with one or two optics experiment and a few stargazing activities with telescopes. These are all good methods to engage students in astronomy learning; however it cannot compare well with the actual process of collecting data by observing the night sky and analyzing that data. Certainly, it is possible to develop one or two such activities but for a variety of reasons it is not practical for a large class environment setting. Fulldome planetariums simulate the night sky and offer the ability to collect data on many astronomical events in a laboratory setting. Unfortunately, astronomy curriculum material that make use of fulldome technology in teaching and laboratory experiences in astronomy is largely lacking. The goal of this talk is to show that fulldome planetarium can be used as a medium for college-level astronomy courses. Several examples will be shown in which students collect and analyze astronomical data as well as activities that are planned for the future.