• IPAC

Summer Visit - 2012 - C-WAYS

The summer visit to Caltech is 3-4 days long and is the only time during the year of work when all the participants on the team come together in person to work intensively on the data. Generally, each educator may bring up to two students to the summer visit that are paid for by NITARP, and they may raise funds to bring two more. The teams work at Caltech; the summer visit typically includes a half-day tour of JPL, which is a favorite site for group photos. Reload to see a different set of quotes.

The C-WAYS team came to visit in July 2012. The core team educators attended, plus 12 students, and two additional scientists.  Dr. JD Armstrong (LCOGT/UH) and Dr. Babar Ali (IPAC) also assissted.


  • Real astronomy isn't just looking through a telescope and jotting down notes. It involves using data from multiple resources, performing calculations, and making judgments about what is being observed. On the trip, I expected to be working with information from telescopes, but I was not expecting the large amount of conversions that needed to be done.
  • I personally found our open ended instruction sessions the most inspiring. As all team members struggle to program spreadsheets correctly and produce accurate plots, teachers and students shouted across the room asking questions, comparing answers and finding success. It was great when students and teachers compared results, found differences and then went back and problem solved. It was especially pleasing when student results turned out to be the correct results and they then helped their teacher see the error of their ways.
  • The fact that we were doing REAL science, we were working with real data, from real telescopes, looking for tangible objects in space. As much as I like working with theories and in the theoretical, it was fantastic to be able to make real scientific headway in the physics world.
  • The most surprising thing was that after all the complicated stuff was explained to us, and the big picture was revealed, it turned out that it really was not that difficult once you got the hang of it -- essentially it was just making some graphs and looking at some data -- so once it was explained (which it was, quite well) it got easy. I expected it to be mind numbingly difficult the entire time. There were also quite a few other [surprising things], but that's the most exuberant.
  • "Real astronomy" involves a lot of data analysis. It involves a large amount of time spent at a computer rather than at a telescope. Astronomers have to know a lot more about programming than I had expected.

Summer Visit - 2012 - C-WAYS