LCO launched the Global Sky Partners program in 2017 with the goal of inspiring students around the world to engage in astronomy and science endeavors by providing 1,000 hours of observing time on our telescope network to educational organizations.
The Global Sky Partners are a diverse group of educators and scientists who run their own fully-supported education projects and investigations using our telescopes.Training, advice and continuous support are offered to all education partner programs by our education staff, and partners engage in monthly online meetings where they discuss ideas and share accomplishments.
Each selected Partner has an exemplary track record in astronomy education and allows LCO to reach unprecedented audiences. Some Partners manage their programs in person and others run their programs entirely online, offering a global reach to students, teachers, and the wider public. Each Partner program has its own goals and target audiences—some provide a large variety of projects, all of them using LCO while others use LCO as part of a wider educational curriculum.
Our Global Sky Partners run programs using LCO for long-term studies of asteroids, teacher training, student apprenticeships, inspirational space outreach events, in-depth investigations for journal publication, training for the next generation of scientists in the developing world, and the search for gravitational waves.
In the inaugural year of 2018, there were 16 Global Sky Partners selected from many applications. The first year was a great success and over 15 peer-reviewed papers have been published by the Partners. During 2018, the Partners shared LCO data and resources with 12,000 people directly. Because of their use of LCO, middle- and high-school students from our Partners have presented their research at international conferences to professional astronomers, won state-level science fairs, and attracted college scholarships.
In our 2020 cohort, which ran from December 2019 to August 2021, there were a total of 29 partners using 2,300 hours of telescope time. The program is truly international with groups based in North America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Oceania, the Caribbean and South/Latin America, and Asia. The spread of partner audiences covered 66 countries globally.
The Global Sky Partners program is a unique resource for conducting scientific research that has great potential for education. Partners who have already created their own infrastructure are able to use LCO's hardware to leverage their own talents and resources. As access to the internet grows around the world, interest in the unique type of science education provided by LCO will soar.
The great strength of our cutting-edge program is that it uses our robotic telescope network as a tool to inspire an appreciation of science and a curiosity about the Universe that will hopefully spark a lifelong love of learning. Providing students with access to our telescopes fosters a feeling of ownership over their learning and opens the potential for real discovery and contribution to scientific knowledge. While a scientific career is not for everyone, by inspiring an appreciation for learning in our audiences and helping them hone their scientific skills, we can help ensure they’ll become science literate members of society who are capable of making well-informed decisions.