Argos Online  

Introduction and Description
White-dwarf stars are cosmic time machines. At one end of the timeline, they help astronomers determine the age of our Milky Way galaxy and the entire universe. At the other, they show us the fate of our own Sun and the entire solar system.

University of Texas astronomer Don Winget and his colleagues use these stellar time machines, which are the crushed cores of once-normal stars like the Sun, to study the birth of the galaxy, the evolution of Sun-like stars, and the process through which these stars disperse chemical elements into space as they die. And with new techniques, they are using white dwarfs to hunt for planets in other star systems. The planetary systems that survive the "deaths" of the stars that become white dwarfs could resemble our own solar system after the Sun evolves into its white-dwarf stage several billion years from now.

Teachers and students can share in the study of these cosmic time machines through lessons and activities created by Winget and McDonald Observatory education specialists and tested in Texas classrooms. These activities will sharpen students' understanding of how stars live and die, and how astronomers use white-dwarf stars to probe many of the mysteries of our galaxy.

otto struve telescope This is the 82" (2.1 meter) Otto Struve telescope at McDonald Observatory used in the ARGOS research - click to see more pictures.
To prepare students for the Argos-On Line experience, we suggest several short and creative activities that can be done in class or in a science club setting. These activities help students learn about telescopes and how they work, what astronomers do, and the function of an observatory. They involve critical thinking and problem solving. They are recommended, but not required, for participating in the Event.

Lesson Plan (pdf) Related Links & Background

During the over-night lock-in, students will have opportunities to interface with astronomers at an observatory while they are using their professional equipment on a large telescope to take research data. In addition to that capstone activity, the evening can be filled with other activities that support the observing and/or research objective. The activities work together to help students gain conceptual understanding of the methods of research and the particular research objectives obtainable with the Argos instrument.

Lesson Plan (pdf) Related Links & Background

The optional post-event activities continue the students' understanding of the astronomical research being done with Argos. They emphasize critical thinking and scientific reasoning. These activities apply essentials of high-school math and basic physics in engaging ways.

Lesson Plan (pdf) Related Links & Background

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ARGOS Online is supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
under an Education and Public Outreach supplement to Grant/Contract/Agreement No. NAG5-13094
issued through the Office of Space Science.

18 January 2008
Astronomy Program · The University of Texas at Austin · Austin, Texas 78712
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