The 40 Foot Telescope

The Radio Astronomer for a Day program got its start way back in 1987, when a group of teachers from across the nation “took over” the Forty Foot Radio Telescope to investigate the Universe.  The Observatory quickly realized that radio astronomy projects could be the perfect foil for inquiry-based learning!  All the right ingredients are there:

  • not knowing “the answer” ahead of time,
  • the ability to master the instrumentation to collect your own data,
  • using that data to form evidence-based ideas about the Universe.

Since that first summer with teachers, the Observatory has offered Radio Astronomer for a Day to students in grades 5- graduate school! Now,  30 years later, more than 2,000 students try out being a scientist at the Observatory every year! For some students, it is the beginning of a life-long passion for science.

So much data!

How does it work? Students  work in teams to tackle a radio astronomy problem statement, which engages them in using the 40 Foot Telescope. We provide instruction, of course, but then it’s up to them! Students collect data, and begin to analyze it in their teams. What happens next depends on how long they stay.  For groups staying just one night, we will use guided inquiry techniques to interpret our data and also to discuss scientific processes and habits of mind.

If students visit for 3 days or so, it is often customary to have them prepare short presentations to share their findings in a colloquium style setting.

Of course we round out the experience with tours and hands-on activities.  We’ll work with you to develop an experience that works for your students!

At this time there is no cost for the RAFAD program, except for room and board, and we have done our best to make it affordable!

To make a reservation or begin the conversation, please feel free to contact us at 304-456-2011, or reservations@gbobservatory.org.

We hope to see you and your students soon!