29 July 2020
Modern astronomy increasingly depends on computational thinking. Although some astronomy courses for undergraduates use computing, high school astronomy courses often have little computing. Created as a part of a research experience for teachers in astronomy and another in computer science, this project leverages robotic telescope images and astronomical algorithms to determine the distance to a star cluster using variable stellar photometry. Students investigate Python and Jupyter Notebook to analyze astronomical images to calculate the interstellar distance to a star cluster across the Milky Way. Students will learn how to write Python code that runs in a Jupyter Notebook such that the brightness of stars in an astronomical image can be determined. The real astronomical image data will be directly manipulated and analyzed by code the students create. Student project files and teacher solution files are provided. Code is open source, and materials are available for classroom use.