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!
Skynet Junior Scholars
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 spark plugs 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 with Image Processing
These activities make use of astronomical data stored in FITS format, a standard data product used by astronomers the world over, including radio astronomers. To engage in these activities you will need image processing software. You can find a list here.
- The Radio Moon . Each month, we watch the moon go through phases from a tiny curved sliver to a full round disk and back again. What would happen if we could look at the moon with a radio telescope? Would the radio moon go through phases as well? See what you can find out.
- To be a star or not a star. That is the question. You have been given telescope time on a radio telescope to observe an object called 3C274, or Virgo A. This object is in the constellation Virgo, and it's signal is very strong. The question: What is it? Is it a star? Can you use your data to find out?
- Resolution. It's not just for New Years. A telescope's resolving power is its ability to discern details in an object. The desire to see greater detail is a big reason why radio telescopes are so big. Compare images made through two different NRAO telescopes to investigate resolution!
- Measuring the age of the Universe How do we know the universe is expanding? Using image data and radio data, discover the evidence for the expanding universe.
- Radio FITS files A selection of fits files from the 140 Foot Telescope and the VLA. Many are used in the activities above.