best way to take advantage of the educational benefits astronomy
has to offer as a natural science is the simplest—observation.
Not all teachers can coordinate field trips, since in New York,
the twin problems of light pollution and obstruction of the
horizon necessitate a position in a flat open area like Central
Park; classes for whom this would be difficult might be best
off using videos or multimedia presentations.
classrooms which do have the opportunity to directly observe
the heavenly bodies in the nighttime sky, and can afford
it, should take advantage of a product like Celestron’s
Nexstar GPS. This revolutionary telescopic system is one
of the very first to exploit Global Positioning technology,
which uses communication with a geosynchronous satellite
to locate a vast catalogue of stars, planets, and other astronomical
objects on command. By programming a user interface built
into the Nexstar, a presentation not unlike a PowerPoint
display can be registered which takes the viewer on a tour
of the universe without any prior knowledge of the subject.
The Nexstar 11 even has a tour mode that analyzes the available
objects at the location time and coordinates
is probably the optimal way to present astronomy to a group—it requires
no expertise on the part of an instructor, and offers the very
best feasible means an amateur can use to gain experience with
the heavens. The Nexstar GPS series is expensive—an average
of $3000 per scope. There are also some limitations for an
urban user: if the horizon is obstructed to any appreciable
extent—a certainty to any viewer in New York City—the
user may still be able to take advantage of the positioning
system, but the complete database of objects visible from that
point may not be accessible and it may take some time to gain
a satellite uplink. Also, for those that travel, if transported
a long distance, across the equator, for example, there may
be a reorientation period lasting as long as several hours.
However, if used consistently in the same location, the Nexstar
11 can be “trained” to recognize the signal of
the local satcomms despite a less-than-perfect viewing environment.
schools that can meet the price tag, an automated observation
system takes all the guesswork out of astronomical observation,
and removes one of the most persistent obstacles to using
the sky as a dynamic classroom for students. Classes that
specifically know how to locate solar system and constellatory
phenomena within the standard matrix schemes on their syllabus
should benefit from having that hurdle taken out of their way.
More information about the Nexstar 11, as well as the other
scopes in the series, can be obtained from www.highpointscientific.com.#