Archive for the books Category

Greater Houston Astronomy Coaltion

Posted in amateur astronomy, astronomical history, astronomy eduction, books, sidewalk astronomy, Student Astronomy, urban skies with tags , , on June 7, 2010 by bellaireastro

HPL Central Astro Display

The Houston Public Library was kind enough to let me put together a display for the 2nd floor.

Hopefully people will see the display and discover the Houston astronomy community. There are several area clubs each serving a different part of the metro area and we often collaborate on star parties and for the annual Astronomy Day event held at the George Observatory.

Astronomy Day 2009

The best way to learn about astronomy is to check out one of the area clubs. There are novice presentations and lots of chances to ask questions and meet the experts. You don’t have to join to come to a meeting so give us a try!

The Houston Astronomical Society meets monthly at the Science & Research Building 1 at University of Houston.

The North Houston Astronomy Club meets monthly at Lone Star College-Kingwood building CLA

The Ft Bend Astronomy Club meets monthly at the Houston Community College Stafford Campus.

The Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society meets at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Clear Lake.

If your school, scout troop, or other organization is interested in having a star party hosted for your group, contact us using the Night Sky Network. We can schedule events with a few or a lot of telescopes or lectures and demonstrations.

100 Hours of Astronomy

Sidewalk Astronomy @ HPL


Astronomy Education Gets It Right – Interactive is Better

Posted in astronomy eduction, books, Student Astronomy with tags , , , , , on October 7, 2009 by bellaireastro


I just finished reading an article published in the October 2009 issue of Physics Today by Prather, Rudolph, and Brissenden titled Teaching and
learning astronomy in the 21st century

As a high school astronomy teacher I have benefited from the techniques mentioned in the article over the past 2 years as I try to figure out how best to get students involved in their own learning.

Essentially what Prather, Rudolph, and Brissenden have been able to show is that when instructors use the right tools an astronomy course can cover difficult and meaningful material even with non-science majors and produce a measurable gain in student knowledge about the topics in question.


Look-Back Time Lecture-Tutorial Question

The lecture-tutorials, concept questions with peer-instruction, along with the general attitude that students should be engaged in the learning process has helped me to have some very fun and productive astronomy classes so far.

I have used the Astronomy Diagnostic Test in class with some success but I haven’t used the newer Light and Spectroscopy Concept Inventory although I will at the start of the Spring semester. Since I’ve never had any professional development or training with these materials I sometimes struggle to use them effectively, but a motivated instructor can go a long with with just what’s available out there and some willingness to work. Many of these concepts I myself had wrong in some way or another and that has helped me to look for the same sorts of mistakes from my students.


Moon Phases Ranking Tast


Radial Velocity Think-Pair-Share Question

Two great resources to get you started:

1) Astronomy 101 by the Center for Astronomy Education has ways to connect with others wanting to add to astronomy education research or to learn from those that have come before. Check out the teaching strategy section for some fantastic ideas.

2) Astronomy Education Review is an open journal of astronomy education that covers college as well as high school level issues.

I can attest to the fact that using these techniques and these tools really help to create an astronomy course that belongs to everyone and encourages active participation from everyone. It can be hard to let go of a full-class lecture but in the end everybody has a better experience if you just trust in the process.

Book Review: Observing the Night Sky with Binoculars | Universe Today

Posted in astro blogs, books, observing, space, Student Astronomy, urban skies with tags on June 24, 2009 by bellaireastro

Observing the Night Sky with Binoculars

Book Review: Observing the Night Sky with Binoculars

Most people new to astronomy hear the advice to try binoculars first at some point. I know they are the first implement I grab when heading outside.

This review from Universe Today is worth a look. Perhaps this book is in your future!

Review of The Pluto Files

Posted in books with tags , on January 4, 2009 by bellaireastro

My wife recently received a copy of The Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. She asked if I would read it and review it so here is what I thought.

Astronomers of all ages and levels of skill are benefiting from an explosion of knowledge on topics ranging from possible life on Mars, to the influence of dark matter on the universe, to frequent reports about newly discovered exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars). The deluge of data has resulted in a whirlwind of new ideas and the inevitable changes to the scientific status quo. Pluto’s recent change of planetary status and the cultural and scientific turmoil that led up to its demotion stem directly from our attempts to get a handle on the latest discoveries.

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book “The Pluto Files: the Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet” does a wonderful job of putting all the scientific and cultural issues into a fun, well-balanced and very readable volume. The science in the book is easy to follow and presented in a very balanced way. Dr. Tyson presents the facts in the context of culture and history throughout the tale of the beleaguered Pluto. It is an approachable book and very readable. The inclusion of many humorous comics and images of the prominent players in this tragic drama makes it seem more real. You get a sense of the human element. After all, this is a story about how humans react when science and sentimentality don’t get along.

Dr. Tyson makes his opinion very clear, but he is willing to admit that the topics bear more discussion. What about Sedna, Eris, and the other “new planets” that make the inclusion of Pluto a sticky problem for planetary scientists? In the end he suggests the issue isn’t whether or not Pluto should be a planet, but that astronomers should do a better job of attempting to handle the newcomers to our celestial party. Can we really do science by committee? Is science meant to be a democracy? Shouldn’t careful science be the way things are done? Perhaps we have all been too hasty in taking sides on the issue of Pluto’s planethood. Maybe we should have a few more planets in our list or leave the number at 8. Either way, we need to understand how all the parts of the solar system work, regardless of what classification we use.

Yes, it is true that Pluto clearly doesn’t fit with the terrestrial planets of the inner solar system nor with the gas giants of the outer solar system. But it matters less what name we use to describe Pluto, Ceres, Eris, Sedna, and the others yet to be discovered and more what we do as a culture with our new information. After all, Pluto’s story is our story regardless of what label we use to describe it.

So even if you are not a fan of Pluto or an astronomy buff, go out and get a copy of this delightful book, and I promise you will laugh and likely learn some fun stuff, too.