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October 2009  •  Volume 2 Number 3  •  Archive

Education Update


Plans for Education and Public Outreach (EPO) have been part of LSST since the beginning. An EPO section (and budget) was written into the initial Design & Development proposal and an awareness of our EPO responsibilities is pervasive throughout the project. This long-term outlook gives us the advantage of collaborating now with EPO projects that LSST can leverage in the future. Several such projects have had good news recently from the National Science Foundation (NSF) concerning their grant proposals as described below. LSST is keeping an eye on these exemplary efforts.

1. CitizenSky: Help Solve a 175-year old Mystery!

Supported by a three-year grant from the Informal Science Education division of the NSF, CitizenSky will recruit, train, and coordinate public participation in understanding Epsilon Aurigae, an unusual visual eclipsing binary star system with a 27 year period that has mystified astronomers for nearly two hundred years. Led by the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), CitizenSky emphasizes participation in the full scientific method. Suzanne Jacoby is on the advisory board of CitizenSky; AAVSO Director Arne Henden is on the LSST EPO Advisory Board; LSST Science Collaboration team member and NOAO astronomer Steve Howell heads a CitizenSky team. Citizen Sky gives us a chance to work more closely with the amateur community, and to see how citizen science observations and metadata can be integrated with the AAVSO database.

2. Research Based Science Education (RBSE) for Undergraduates

Travis Rector at the University of Alaska Anchorage just received word that his Type 2 proposal to the NSF Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) program was funded to implement and assess the effectiveness of integrating scientific research with education at the undergraduate level. Classroom research using real data is central to the LSST EPO program in formal settings, middle-school through undergraduate. Travis’s current work builds on experience with the NOAO RBSE program. He and his postdoc Andy Puckett, who serves on the EPO Outreach Advisory Board, are currently refining five modules available at

  • Nova Search—Students blink WIYN 0.9m images of M31 to look for novae
  • Killer Asteroids—Students use SDSS and WIYN 0.9m data to refine orbits of asteroids
  • Variable Stars—Students use coudé spectra to study semi-regular variables
  • AGN Spectroscopy—Students use KPNO 2.1m spectra of radio sources to search for quasars
  • Photo Z—Students use NDWFS data to find high-redshift galaxies via photometric redshift

This Type 2 CCLI award supports testing the curricula at six other universities, including LSST partner University of Washington. LSST datasets will be used in RBSE-based learning experiences for students and professional development of educators.

3. Zooniverse—Conquering the Data Flood with a Transformative Partnership between Citizen Scientists and Machines

As we go to press, this proposal led by Dr. Lucy Fortson at the Adler Planetarium and submitted to the NSF Cyber-Enabled Discovery and Innovation (CDI) program has been funded! The Zooniverse is an online citizen science gateway currently under development by teams of scientists, programmers, and educators primarily in the United Kingdom and the United States. When complete, the Zooniverse will provide a home for the already existing Galaxy Zoo project and a series of planned new projects that will extend the Galaxy Zoo concept and methodology to new data sets including biology, lunar science, solar science, and the humanities. Resources will also be developed for utilizing these datasets for machine learning. The goal of Zooniverse is to create a sustainable future for large-scale, internet-based citizen science, tapping the mental resources of a community of lay people in an innovative manner that promises a profound impact on our ability to generate and apply new knowledge. LSST anticipates developing a suite of citizen science projects that will eventually be made available in the Zooniverse framework. We will begin working directly with Zooniverse in six months to prototype Light Curve Zoo within LSST’s Final Design Phase. LSST EPO team member and GMU professor Kirk Borne is a co-investigator on the Zooniverse proposal; Suzanne Jacoby is a member of the Advisory Board. Zooniverse collaborators Jordan Raddick (JHU / SDSS Education Lead) and Lucy Fortson (Adler) are on the LSST EPO Advisory Board.

4. GMU’s NSF/DUE/CCLI award: A Curriculum for Undergraduate Data Sciences Education

Kirk Borne (LSST EPO team member) and his colleagues at George Mason University have been funded by the NSF CCLI program to develop an undergraduate program in data sciences within GMU’s new Department of Computational & Data Sciences. The primary emphasis of the GMU CUPIDS program (Curriculum for an Undergraduate Program in Data Sciences) is to train students in 21st century workforce skills that demand an understanding of and skills in the uses of data for today’s information-driven enterprises in academia, business, and government, most especially in the sciences. LSST data and databases will provide rich raw material for the courses in Scientific Data & Databases, Data & Information Visualization, and Scientific Data Mining. Using other large scientific databases now (such as SDSS), and LSST in the future, students are trained to access large data repositories, to conduct meaningful scientific inquiries into the data, to mine and analyze the data, and to make data-driven scientific discoveries.

5. Summer FaST program

The 2009 LSST FaST team at UW takes a break for baseball: Hakeem Oluseyi (FIT), Keri Hoadley (FIT), Julius Allison (Alabama A&M), Andy Becker (UW).

Again this summer, supplemental NSF funding allowed LSST to support Faculty and Student Teams (FaST) at Brookhaven National Lab, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and the University of Washington (UW). Hakeem Oluseyi, faculty member at Florida Institute of Technology and Alabama A&M, and his students spent the summer working with UW astronomer Andrew Becker. This team worked on the LSST object detection pipeline software, simulating the sensitivity of the software to different types of transient objects. Their work will be presented as part of the LSST poster lineup at the January 2010 meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, DC.

This article compiled by Suzanne Jacoby, LSST Manager for Education & Public Outreach


LSST is a public-private partnership. Funding for design and development activity comes from the National Science Foundation, private donations, grants to universities, and in-kind support at Department of Energy laboratories and other LSSTC Institutional Members:

Brookhaven National Laboratory; California Institute of Technology; Carnegie Mellon University; Chile; Columbia University; Drexel University; Google, Inc.; Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Johns Hopkins University; Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology--Stanford University; Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, Inc.; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Los Alamos National Laboratory; National Optical Astronomy Observatory; Princeton University; Purdue University; Research Corporation for Science Advancement; Rutgers University; SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Space Telescope Science Institute; The Pennsylvania State University; The University of Arizona; University of California at Davis; University of California at Irvine; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; University of Pennsylvania; University of Pittsburgh; University of Washington; Vanderbilt University

LSST E-News Team:

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  • Additional contributors as noted

LSST E-News is a free email publication of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Project. It is for informational purposes only, and the information is subject to change without notice.

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