Tools for Astronomical Discovery
& the Search for Life on Other Planets

Get closer to the science by building simple telescopes, investigating more sophisticated telescopes, and learning about cutting-edge billion-dollar-class instruments.

Workshop Dates

July 29-August 2
For Educators Grades 6-12

Workshop Agenda

NOTE: Agenda is tentative and subject to change.
Telescopes Workshop Draft Agenda

Workshop Format

Astronomy is different than most sciences. Astronomers rarely get to design their own experiments, instead, we rely on the universe to set them up for us, and we use telescopes to observe the results. In this course, we will build simple telescopes, investigate how to use more sophisticated telescopes, and learn the technology behind the latest billion dollar class instruments used for modern research.

We will investigate the properties of telescopes (magnification, field of view, light gathering power, and angular resolution), take digital images, and learn how to make measurements from astronomical images. Participants will work as a group to demonstrate how multiple mirror telescopes like Penn State's Hobby-Eberly telescope are different than monolithic mirror telescopes.

Plan a Night of Observatory Research

Teachers will learn how astronomers plan out a night of observing at a research observatory, and will create their own plans for using Penn State's rooftop observatory during the workshop.

Learn from Astronomy Experts

Astronomy experts will present their work with the largest ground-based observatories in the world and will present results from various space telescopes. In particular, we will focus on the instruments being used to search for other planets and determine their suitability to harbor life.

Bring Your School's Telescope

Educators who have school telescopes are welcome to bring these to the workshop, and they can be included in the session on how to set up and observe with a small telescope.

National Science Education Standards

Science as Inquiry

  • Grades 5-12: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry, Understandings about scientific inquiry

Earth and Space Science

  • Grades 5-8: Earth's History
  • Grades 9-12: Origin and evolution of the earth system and of the universe

History and Nature of Science

  • Grades 5-8: History of Science
  • Grades 5-8: Science as a human endeavor
  • Grades 5-8: Nature of Science
  • Grades 9-12: Nature of Science knowledge
  • Grades 9-12: Science as a human endeavor
  • Grades 9-12: Historical perspectives

Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Science and Technology with Assessment Anchors

Inquiry and Design:

7th grade

  • 3.2.7.A: Explain and apply scientific and technological knowledge
  • 3.2.7.B: Apply process knowledge to make and interpret observations
  • 3.2.7.C: Identify and use the elements of scientific inquiry to solve problems.

10th grade

  • 3.2.10.A: Apply knowledge and understanding about the nature of scientific and technological knowledge
  • 3.2.10.B: Apply process knowledge and organize scientific and technological phenomena in varied ways
  • 3.2.10.C: Apply the elements of scientific inquiry to solve problems.


Chris PalmaChris Palma

Dr. Christopher Palma has substantial experience in education and public outreach in astronomy, and in 2003 he was hired as a full-time astronomy outreach faculty member at Penn State.

Since 1995 he has been involved in numerous formal and informal science education programs. As a graduate student, Chris provided summer enrichment labs for a local school, created an "Astronomy Question & Answer" website staffed by graduate students, and was the guest astronomy expert on a local AM radio talk show.

At Penn State, Chris has continued to participate in outreach by giving presentations and running demos at the community outreach event run by Penn State called AstroFest, presenting the Fall 2003 Penn State Friedman Lecture in Astronomy to an audience of 500, giving planetarium shows to visiting K-12 classes, and designing and implementing three summer camps for K - 8th graders with astronomy, space exploration, and astrobiology themes.

Since 2001, Chris has served as Director and a Lead Instructor for the Penn State In-Service Workshops in Astronomy. His teaching responsibilities have included courses for both undergraduate astronomy majors and introductory astronomy for non-science majors.

He has authored and taught several on-line astronomy courses to both distance education and Penn State resident student audiences.

Kevin LuhmanKevin Luhman

Kevin Luhman received a B.A. in astronomy and a B.S. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Arizona. He was as a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and is now an associate professor at Penn State University.

Kevin has used optical and infrared telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope to study the birth of stars, brown dwarfs, and planets.

Chris HouseDr. Chris House

Dr. House is a Professor of Geosciences and the Director of the Penn State Astrobiology Research Center and the NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium. He received his Ph.D. from UCLA and his research interests include microbial geobiology, biogeochemistry, and molecular evolution and genomics.

Open Quote Mark

Lab activities will provide an opportunity for me to go beyond theory in my classroom presentation and provide a "hands-on" opportunity for my students.

Anonymous attendee from Telescopes Workshop in 2008

Close Quote Mark