Hands-on STEM Activities

A list of radio astronomy activities for students and educators that use real telescopes and/or equipment, including some that you build yourself!

NRAO-based Activities

Wanna drive a giant radio telescope? SKYNET is a distributed network of robotic telescopes operated by students, faculty, and staff at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The network began operation in January 2006 with the opening of the six PROMPT telescopes in Chile. Since then, several more telescopes in the U.S. and Europe have been integrated into the network, including our 20 meter telescope at Green Bank, the very first radio telescope on the network.

How Quiet are Your Skies?
Radio Astronomers battle radio pollution as they try to investigate the radio universe. Many things give off radio waves, from the sparkplugs in your car, to your home computer, to communications satellites. Try this activity to see what we're up against!

Piece Together a Radio Picture
Although we study the radio universe, we don't listen! Instead, radio astronomers use computers to create images of objects in our Milky Way Galaxy as well as distant galaxies and quasars. In this activity, you will learn how radio images are made.

How Big Is the Universe?
Using hydrogen spectral line data of spiral galaxies, follow in Edwin Hubble's footsteps to measure the size and age of the Universe!

Advanced Activities from Hands-on Universe

Hands-On Universe (HOU), based at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the University of California at Berkeley, is a national program that allows students to analyze astronomy data just like astronomers do.

HOU provides:

  • Image Processing Software: Image processing, and data analysis techniques, available in the HOU software, are the same as those used by research astronomers. These activities require FITS image processing software.
  • Teacher Training
  • Access to Telescopes
  • Astronomy Curriculum Text: The HOU curriculum units integrate science, mathematics and technology in the context of exciting astronomical explorations. In addition, activities developed for informal science are great middle school activities.
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