The ADS All-Sky Survey (ADSASS) is an ongoing effort aimed at turning the NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS), widely known for its unrivaled value as a literature resource for astronomers, into a data resource. The ADS is not a data repository per se, but it implicitly contains valuable holdings of astronomical data, in the form of images, tables and object references contained within articles. The objective of the ADSASS effort is to extract these data and make them discoverable and available through existing data viewers. The resulting ADSASS data layer promises to greatly enhance workflows and enable new research by tying astronomical literature and data assets into one resource.
The WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors Program (WWTA) is new outreach initiative run by researchers at Harvard University, WGBH, and Microsoft Research. WWT Ambassadors are astrophysically-literate volunteers who are trained to be experts in using WWT as teaching tool. Ambassadors and learners alike use WWT to create dynamic, interactive Tours of the Universe, which are shared in schools, public venues, and online. Ambassador-created Tours are being made freely available and will ultimately form a comprehensive learning resource for Astronomy and Astrophysics.
In this short talk, we will describe the results of a Pilot Study where volunteer Ambassadors helped sixth-graders use WWT during their six-week Astronomy unit. The results of the study compare learning outcomes for 80 students who participated in WWTA and 80 students who only used traditional learning materials. In the comparison, we find that, after the six-week unit: twice as many "WWT” as "non-WWT” students understand complex three dimensional orbital relationships; and tremendous gains are seen in student interest in science overall, astronomy in particular, and even in using "real” telescopes.
Plans for WWTA include expansion to five US sites within the coming year, and ultimately to an International Program. Online materials will ultimately be available through several sites (at WGBH, Harvard and Microsoft), and will be integrated with existing online curriculum programs such as WGBH's Teachers’ Domain and Microsoft's Partners in Learning. More inormation is presently available at www.cfa.harvard.edu/WWTAmbassadors/.
About 50 participants came to a discussion on the benefits and potential obstacles of using astronomy visualization tools for education and public outreach (EPO). Representatives of five different EPO organizations shared information on their project goals and outcomes. Public users need support to learn how to use these programs effectively for education, but the efforts are worthwhile because the thrill that comes from working with real data and the natural beauty of astronomical imagery are great attractors for new science enthusiasts.
In the coming era of data-intensive science, it will be increasingly important to be able to seamlessly move between scientific results, the data analyzed in them, and the processes used to produce them. As observations, derived data products, publications, and object metadata are curated by different projects and archived in different locations, establishing the proper linkages between these resources and describing their relationships becomes an essential activity in their curation and preservation. In this paper we describe initial efforts to create a semantic knowledge base allowing easier integration and linking of the body of heterogeneous astronomical resources which we call the Virtual Observatory (VO). The ultimate goal of this effort is the creation of a semantic layer over existing resources, allowing applications to cross boundaries between archives. The proposed approach follows the current best practices in Semantic Computing and the architecture of the web, allowing the use of off-the-shelf technologies and providing a path for VO resources to become part of the global web of linked data.
It is now a commonplace observation that human society is becoming a coherent super-organism, and that the information infrastructure forms its emerging brain. Perhaps, as the underlying technologies are likely to become billions of times more powerful than those we have today, we could say that we are now building the lizard brain for the future organism.