Computers put stars in sky-watchers’ eyes

first_imgWhen Caitlin Dailey and Lorie Lewis signed up for an astronomy lab at California State University, Northridge, they assumed they would be spending a lot of time outdoors, scanning the night sky. Instead, they spent one recent class in the university’s new $125,000 “smart lab,” poring over computerized images of the moon and calculating the age of the lunar craters. Students say the small-screen preview helps them understand what they view later through a telescope. “It makes it a lot easier,” said Dailey, 21, of Northridge, who plans to go into public relations. “When you look at the night sky, you know what you’re looking at.” The smart lab that debuted this semester in Eucalyptus Hall features 24 computer stations, with 24 more on order. TheSky6 software lets students simulate the astronomical sky anywhere in the world and also provides access to other kinds of data – such as 25 years worth of information on the sun’s magnetic fields. Lisa M. Sodders, (818) 713-3663 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “It’s an astronomer’s dream,” said J. David Osorio, 27, of Sylmar, a graduate teaching assistant. Students can study the role of errors in astronomical measurements and even how to convert telescope observations to physical quantities, such as wavelength and velocity. They also do field observations, in addition to the in-class assignments. About 1,000 students take astronomy courses each semester at CSUN. For some, it’s the first steps toward a doctorate and careers as astronomers or astrophysicists. For many others, it’s a way to fulfill their science requirement for graduation. But even if the students don’t go on to work for NASA, officials say the class can serve as a good introduction to the sciences, since astronomy combines physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology and techniques from engineering and computer science. “I’m not a science person,” said Lewis, who plans to go into marketing and apparel design. “I thought you would have to know something (about science beforehand), but I’m doing OK. I couldn’t even find the Big Dipper before this class.” last_img read more