The Astronomy Modeling with Exoplanets course will give teacher participants a 45-hour distance learning experience that will ground them in the use of the Modeling Method of Instruction. This course utilizes  curriculum resources that focus on the modern-day scientific pursuit of discovering and exploring planets around other star systems: exoplanets. 

First participants will develop models of space and time that enable them to locate objects and map space from the perspective of Earth. Next, they will examine motion and forces in order to develop a generalizable model of orbital motion. Then, they will construct both particle and wave models of light as a mode of energy transfer (and information transfer) via radiation. Finally, participants will develop a model of cosmic evolution, to better understand the history and fate of our universe. In this final unit of study, we will consider the probability of life elsewhere in the universe, on exoplanets, by deriving the famous SETI Drake Equation.

Participants will develop skills and knowledge in observational astronomy, image acquisition, stellar photometry, data and image analysis, and how telescopes work. In the process they will uncover  a number of basic physics  concepts: forces, measurement, motion, gravity, light, electricity & magnetism. They will access remote telescopes and collaborate with professional exoplanet astronomers in their own exoplanet observations. Some teachers may even be able to get access to physical telescopes for classroom use in exoplanet observing. 

Be sure to view this video " Astronomy Modeling Instruction with Exoplanets & the Unistellar Telescope Network - AGU 2023" by Dan Peluso
Click Here for video

Dates: January 18 - May 2, 2024 (end day may change)
Meeting days: Thursday
Meeting times: 7-10 pm EST, 6-9 pm CST, 5-8 pm MST, 4-7 pm PST
Leaders: Daniel Peluso (CA) and Paul Sasso
Costs: $850, includes a one-year AMTA membership or extension.
Optional graduate-level credits: Up to 3 credits available at $79/credit hour through the University of Pacific
Location: Zoom

Meet the leaders:

Daniel Peluso is an astrophysics PhD candidate with the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) working mostly remotely from the Bay Area, California. Peluso’s PhD thesis, titled "Democratizing & Enhancing Exoplanet Research with the Unistellar Citizen Science Network & Astronomy Modeling Instruction", has been multi-disciplinary focusing on exoplanet confirmation and characteriziation and follow up, especially with Unistellar citizen scientist observers, and astronomy education research with Astronomy Modeling with Exoplanets (AME). In addition to exoplanet researcher, another important aspect of Peluso's thesis was to revise the original Astronomy Modeling Instruction workshop, which then became AME, and build an astronomy education research study to investigate its effectiveness with teachers and students. Preliminary findings from the AME research showed enhancement in both teacher and student astronomical understanding, self-efficacy, and engagement. Following the AME workshop, teachers mostly without prior astronomy experience incorporated a depth of astrophysical content into their high school curricula that often surpassed what's found in many college introductory astronomy courses. Peluso hopes to connect with educators and students from diverse and underserved backgrounds to further build this network and work towards the goal of increasing the prevelence of astronomy in our K-12 system and increase its rigor where offered. He recently completed a research position at the SETI Institute developing Unistellar citizen science education programs and the Unistellar Exoplanet Campaign, but also was Assistant Director of their Unistellar College Astronomy Network (UCAN) program, which places research-grade imaging telescopes in colleges across the nation. He still is a research affiliate with the SETI Institute, but is currently teaching AME to high school students in Vallejo, CA and working on finishing up his PhD, which he plans to submit in November 2023. Peluso also enjoys photography, music, film, and is a singer-songwriter and musician.

 Paul Sasso is a Science teacher at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, Maine and for the past 13 years has been teaching all levels of Physics and Astronomy. He also directs the STEM Makerspace at school, which is a hub for 3D printing and robotics (supporting students projects schoolwide). Paul has been a Modeler since 2017 when he took his first workshop in Physics Mechanics. He comes to teaching from a career in Engineering with Motorola, Siemens and General Dynamics. Restoring old VWs, remote camping, photography and keeping up with his wife keep Paul busy the rest of the time.