A Hybrid Hands-On And Computer Simulation Laboratory Activity For The Teaching Of Astronomical Parallax

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Ned Ladd
Katharyn Nottis
Patricia Udomprasert


Parallax, Worldwide Telescope, Astronomy Laboratory Activities


As computer-based visualization techniques are becoming more important across the landscape of astronomy education, this pre-test/post-test study using the Size, Scale, and Structure Concept Inventory (S3CI) looked at the impact of using a hybrid combination of hands-on and computer-based activities on the learning of five semesters of non-science majoring undergraduates learning about the concept of astronomical parallax. The hybrid laboratory activity comprises an outdoor component where students use the parallax method to determine the distances to nearby objects, and a computer visualization component using the American Astronomical Society’s WorldWide Telescope astronomical visualization software. This activity was implemented as part of an undergraduate astronomy course for non-science majors. Based on an analysis of student responses, we conclude that this activity can help students understand the parallax method as applied in the astronomical realm. However, even after instruction, students had difficulty recognizing this method as the primary means for determining distances in astronomy.


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