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Grow your astronomy education with our hands-on projects. Great for building STEM skills (Science Technology Engineering Math)

Our robotic telescope and camera systems capture pictures all night long for your astronomy projects.

A Universe of choices:

BPO offers a huge range of hands on advanced Astronomy projects to further your understanding of our universe, and to improve anyone's science, math, engineering, and computer skills.  Each project is customized to fit your experience levels in astronomy.  There are projects for all age levels.  Please email us with questions or suggestions for projects you are interested in.

Each project is customized based on your experience levels, and can be executed in several different ways.  Eight hours or more are involved for most of these projects.  You can do the project onsite here at BPO, or make arrangements for remote execution of projects at your home, classroom, or library.  Each project has certain goals for learning and accomplishing the focus of the project, and uses images captured by and for you at the observatory.  A fun time and challenge can be found for any group... individuals, library groups, scout troops, school groups K-12, college groups, classrooms, and more.  See below for level assignments.

These projects are also great for science fairs, home schooling, and independent study programs.

Sample Projects available: ( novice, intermediate, advanced )

  • Novice Projects:

  • Building Blocks of our galaxy and beyond:
    Universe Building Blocks
    Learn about the building blocks of our galaxy and beyond....
    nebulas, star clusters, supernovas, galaxies.

    Also learn about our solar system, planets, moons, asteroids, comets.

    Create your own catalog of these objects during your studies.
    Take color images with special filters and the camera

    And learn basics about stargazing, constellations, and famous objects in the sky.
  • Moon Studies for all ages:
    Moon Projects
    • Lunar Phases - why, how
    • Apollo Landings -where, can you see them?
    • Moon shadows - used to measure moon feature heights
    • Mosaics - advanced image processing like a jigsaw puzzle

    Capture mosaics of the moon and learn how to measure the size of features in your pictures, what math is involved to measure these features, and why the moon looks the way it does.

  • Astrometry - discovering asteroids and comets:
    • detect asteroids and comets through changes in your pictures
    • watch the movement of asteroids across our sky.
    • see changes in comets over time
    • search for new comets, asteroids, supernovas.
  • Intermediate Projects:

  • Asteroid light curves- photometry:
    Asteroid projects
    Most asteroids small, with lumpy potato like shapes rather than round spheres.  As a result, they have very distinct patterns of brightening and dimming as they rotate.  Using the camera, you can easily observe and analyze this rotation.
    Choose from thousands of asteroids, and be the first one to study your target.  Submit your results to the Small Planetary Bodies Committee.  You can help professional astronomers by tracking and reporting on specific asteroids selected for further study.
    Web links of interest for asteroid studies: 1 2 3 4
  • Variable stars - photometry:
    RW Tau eclipsing binary star during totality 12-6-2009
    Most stars are relatively simple everyday stars that shine steadily for billions of years, slowly changing over that time.
    A much more exotic group of stars change in appearance much more frequently, with their brightness increasing or decreasing rapidly.  This can be caused by MANY different situations, but all falls under the category of "Variable Stars".
    Learn about the many amazing and special setups that stars fall under this category.  Choose a type to observe and learn why it appears the way it does...  binary eclipsing stars, flaring stars, pre-novas, pre-supernovas, and many more.
    Comparing the brightness of your target star in a set of pictures you capture, and use that data to illustrate the whole story of that star.

    Here are some websites for information on variable star observing: 1 2
  • Advanced Projects:

Advanced Projects:

Hertz Russell Diagrams of star clusters:
HR Diagram M67 Data and Reference chart

H-R Diagrams are a fundamental cornerstone of modern astronomy.  These charts show the whole life cycles of stars over billions of years, and how a star transitions from one stage of its life cycle to another.

Learn how to create your own H-R diagram and see the "herds" of stars fall into place for young newborn blue tinted stars, mellow middle aged stars, and ancient red hued stars.  See for yourself how you can group stars based on their color and brightness alone, revealing so much more about their evolutionary patterns.

On the left is an example of charting H-R data for M67 done here at BPO by Joan Chamberlain, compared against other studies of M67.


 Kepler's laws of planetary motion:

  • Four hundred years ago, Kepler studied and created his laws of planetary motion.  These laws make a great summation of how moons and planets behave in their orbits.
  • Explore Kepler's laws for yourself by studying the orbits of Jupiter's moons (which take days to complete compared to the years most planetary orbits take).
  • Measure the time and width of their orbits
  • Use Kepler's laws to compute the mass of the moons, and see for yourself how simple and powerful math can be when boiled down to simple equations.
  • Visit this site for a great outline of the subject of Kepler
Extra-Solar planet transits - observing planets around other stars:

Diagram of how extrasolar transits work and can be observed

One of the big new frontiers in astronomy going on right now is detecting and indirectly observing planets orbiting around other stars.  The goal being to eventually learn how many other earth like planets may be out there in the universe...

One of the most common ways to see evidence of a planet orbiting a far away star is to simply watch for a slight dimming of the star as a planet swoops in front of the star during its orbit.  The planet blocks a tiny portion of the light during this "partial eclipse" of sorts, and can be observed for yourself using careful photometry methods.  [ see asteroid and variable star photometry studies above ]

This project explores how to help verify planets orbiting other stars by observing stars suspected of having transiting planets.  Learn all the tricks of the trade, and apply them for yourself.

 Moon Crater and Mountain Heights measured by their shadows:
Moon Closeup as Mosaic for measuring shadows Craters and Mountains on the moon cast very dramatic shadows along the "terminator line" where sunset or sunrise is taking place on the moon on a given day.  These shadows can be measured in digital images, and the correct math will allow you to compute the height of the features casting these shadows.  Join us and dive into this amazing way to understand just what you are seeing with your eyes when you peer at the dramatic surface of the moon. 
Be sure to check out our Webinars and Online Lessons for Astronomy Adventures right from your home!
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