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Space grants to benefit two Morehead projects

posted Tuesday July 1, 2008
Morehead Planetarium and Science Center to receive grants for Project: OBSERVE and “Zoom In”

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s Project: OBSERVE and "Zoom In: Science at the Extremes" exhibit both received grants from the North Carolina Space Grant for 2008-2009. The grant money received will enable both the project and the exhibit to expand and continue to allow the scientific exploration of their participants.

This is the second $10,000 NC Space Grant that MPSC’s Project: OBSERVE (Observation-Based Student Experience in Research Via Exploration) has received. Project: OBSERVE, provided in collaboration with the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill physics and astronomy department, allows North Carolina high schools students to view the night skies through remote, robotic telescopes. Project: OBSERVE does this by training N.C. high school science teachers to use the telescope and providing them with tools to enhance their astronomy curriculums. The six-telescope array, called PROMPT, is located in Chile and students are able to control the telescopes via the Internet.

Jesse Richuso, MPSC’s Science 360 manager, is the principle investigator for the project. Richuso is responsible for designing the curriculum for the participating teachers, training them and acting as support for them as they utilize the project throughout the school year. During the summer of 2008, 20 more high school science teachers will receive training at MPSC and will then implement Project: OBSERVE in their classrooms over the 2008-2009 school year. This provides their students with the unique opportunity to participate in hands-on astronomy.

“Zoom In: Science at the Extremes” received a $5,000 NC Space Grant. Kevin Ivarsen, of the UNC Chapel Hill physics and astronomy department, is the principle investigator for the grant. “Zoom In” will use the grant money to improve the two kiosks in the exhibit which, like Project: OBSERVE, feature the use of the PROMPT telescopes. MPSC plans to install a webcam on the PROMPT site that will allow visitors to explore the surrounding Chilean landscape. “Zoom In” will also install a webcam inside the exhibit to allow visitors to zoom in on objects within the room. In addition to the two webcams, “Zoom In” plans to expand the number of objects that visitors may request from the PROMPT telescopes.

The NC Space Grant is a member of the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program that was established by Congress and is implemented by NASA. This network of university-based consortia contributes to U.S. science by funding research, education and service projects.

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is located at 250 E. Franklin St. in Chapel Hill. For more information about Project: OBSERVE or “Zoom In: Science at the Extremes” call (919) 962-1236.