Telescope drivers’ license
T. Ott1, E. Drolshagen1, J. Kunz-Drolshagen1, T. Plaggenborg1, S. Harfst1, J.-P. Rivet², M. Schultheis², M. Gehlen1, T. Hoffmann1, A. Rietze1, N. Wassermann1, and B. Poppe1
1 CvO Universität Oldenburg, Germany² Université Côte d'Azur, Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur, Laboratoire Lagrange, CNRS, Nice, France
At universities, astrophysics has the reputation of being one of the most captivating subjects. It attracts students from various disciplines and can function as a favorable first approach to fundamental concepts used in physics. Participation is especially high for hands-on exercises such as observational astrophysics. In our education concept, we focus on practical education to guide students. Coordinated projects are designed to first help students achieve the same level of background knowledge regardless of previous experience. In the succeeding courses, knowledge will be intensified and students become more independent. We start with a course introducing Astrophysics in two parts over one year with weather permitting practical observation sessions. During this course, students are required to intensely study one chosen deep space object and to create their own astrophotography. This is a low-key introduction to observation planning and standard astronomical image processing. In the second year, students might opt to dive deeper into observations by participating in a practical course teaching minor planet observations and orbit analysis. A second practical course allows students to observe various objects themselves and find answers to proposed research questions. They are encouraged to define the focus points of this project themselves. This path culminates in an excursion with a strong research character at a facility with two 1-m telescopes. The “Centre Pédagogique Planète et Univers” (C2PU) in the French alps is open to students from all over the world. They are invited to use their telescopes, supported by reputable professional observers. The course is designed to rely heavily on student involvement and individual research interests. The students form teams based on their chosen research interest and familiarize themselves with the topic to a point where they are able to plan the observation as well as analyze the results with a high degree of scientific expertise. These practical approaches are supplemented by a wide range of theoretical lectures, from “Introduction to nuclear and particle physics” to “General theory of relativity”. So far, we have been very successful in implementing these courses and students who have started with the first course and also participated in the last have usually completed the full list of courses. Based on the received feedback and the quality of the submitted work, the concept has proven to be quite beneficial for the students. In 2015 the excursion was even awarded the university’s price for best research-oriented module.