Las Cumbres Observatory is pleased to announce that we are accepting applications for new educational partners, Global Sky Partners, with projects to run between 1 June 2020 - 31 May 2021.
Application deadline extended to 15 May 2020
History of the LCO Education Program
Las Cumbres Observatory launched its education program in 2008, when we began partnering with groups specializing in astronomy education, under the direction of Dr. Edward Gomez.
LCO offers a unique resource for studying astronomy by providing observation time on our network of robotic telescopes that span the Northern and Southern hemispheres. You can follow a variable star as it changes, track an asteroid across the sky, or observe recently discovered supernovae.
Observations are dynamically programmed 24/7 by our autonomous scheduling software. Users submit requests for observations and download their images through our web interface. Alternatively, users may write their own software to interact with our observatory through APIs. Data are fully processed to be science-ready and are publicly available.
Since 2008 we have developed many resources to support educational projects in astronomy, including Space Book (our astronomy text book), Star in a Box (an interactive tool for investigating stars’ lives), Messier Bingo (an interactive game to explore types of astronomical objects and observe them) and Serol's Cosmic Explorers (a virtual learning environment with sets of observing challenges and stories).
Our education program typically serves up to twenty education partners and has reached an estimated 15,000 students across the world. By working with our education partners many of our students have won state science fairs, published peer-reviewed papers, given talks at international conferences on their research, and been awarded college/university scholarships. You can see a full list of current education partners on our Global Sky Partners web page.
Do you want to become a Global Sky Partner?
We are looking for people and groups with interesting, engaging, and innovative ideas for educational projects in astronomy. We are particularly interested in programs that will provide science engagement through astronomy for typically underserved populations anywhere in the world. If you have a really good idea that you think is appropriate for LCO, we will be happy to discuss that possibility with you and even help you get your project started.
We are looking for:
- Projects that make use of LCO’s unique capabilities, which include our global network of telescopes and scheduling software. Projects which involve monitoring of astronomical events or following up on recent astronomical discoveries are particularly suitable.
- Projects targeting under-served audiences. This can be in the developing world, or disengaged communities in the developed world d that are not typically engaged by main stream programs.
- Medium-sized or large groups. If your audience size is less than ~20, you may have a more structured experience by joining an existing Global Sky Partner program.
- Formal or informal education projects. Projects are not limited to ones directly related to school curriculum. Original research projects involving students and purely science communication projects are also of great interest.
We welcome applications from:
- Structured programs working with students or teachers. Applications from individual teachers for projects which only involve their students will only be considered if they provide ways to scale up the project to include more teachers. LCO is able to help set up such projects, but it will be the responsibility of the project leader(s) to maintain the project.
- Structured programs working with amateur astronomers. We are not expecting applications from individual astronomical societies unless you are proposing a large scale project with well defined scientific and educational goals. Preferably you would also have a plan on how your project could be increased in scale, e.g. to combine different communities of amateurs.
- Museums, planetaria, science centers offering structured programs to their visitors.
- International groups offering structured programs. Such a program could serve a community anywhere on Earth (or even spanning different countries) and in any language. We only require that your leaders be able to communicate with LCO in English.
- People involved in astronomy education with interesting and innovative ideas, suited to LCO’s capabilities. For such an experimental program you must give full details of what you plan to achieve, and how you will support and manage your audience. Your application will need to convince the review panel that you have fully considered the educational (formal, informal, or science communication) goals of the project, the amount of time you will need, and how you will support and build your community.
- Observation time on our telescopes. A total of 500 hours of time on our 0.4m telescope network is available to be shared by all education partner project, annually (unused quota will not be automatically available for use in subsequent years).
- There is no fee to becoming an education partner and for using LCO through this program. LCO will bear all of the costs of providing telescope time, including the associated support and infra-structure costs.
- Mentoring in setting up your project, including any links with other partners, testing of LCO facilities, use of our Observing Portal and APIs, and discussion of educational content.
- On-going support for your project coordinators during your project.
Education partners provide:
- Individual user support. You will be the primary support contact for your users. LCO will assist with technical problems or bugs only through each partner's point of contact.
- Educational support materials. You will be responsible for creating all the support materials and education activity documents needed for your audience to participate in your project.
- Progress reports for your project and information on the successes of your project participants to LCO.
For individual teachers:
If you are a teacher, you can still use LCO by joining one of our education partners. They will be able to provide you with all the support you need for you and your students to get the best out of using robotic telescopes.
If you have an amazing new idea, please let us know and we may be able to work with you, to connect you with other partners and to turn your idea into a project.
University student projects
We have a limited amount of telescope resources to offer and although we welcome all applications, priority will be given to those projects engaging with elementary through high school students or the general public. This call is not appropriate for faculty wanting to provide educational, training or research projects to their undergraduates. However, we welcome applications targeting universities and students in the developing world.
How to apply
Application and reporting process
- Please read the application guidance notes below
- Complete our online application form
- Application deadline is 23:00 UTC on 15 May 2020
- Proposals will be reviewed by a panel of astronomy and astronomy education experts during May 2020
- Announcement of education partners: Start of June 2020
- Projects will be allocated observing time for use between 1 July 2020 - 1 June 2021
- You will be required to submit a short report on the progress of your project by 1 Dec 2020 and a final report by 1 June 2021.
Guidance for writing a proposal
- If your project will run for multiple years you will be required to submit proposals each year.
- We anticipate this proposal round will be very competitive as many of our previous partners will be reapplying for time.
- Be as complete as possible when describing your project. Each application will be judged by a panel and ranked against other applications.
- Be as realistic as possible with what you plan to achieve. We would rather discuss adding more time to your project during the year than allocating much more than you use.
- If appropriate, make sure that your targets are observable by our 0.4m telescopes, e.g. they are bright enough, will have good visibility from LCO 0.4m sites during the lifetime of your project, and will not require real-time, "live" or "interactive" observing (which we do not offer).
- We have created a table for estimating target exposure times, a target visibility plotting tool and tutorials to assist with observing requests.
- For other enquires relating to your application, please contact Edward Gomez - egomez(at)lco.global.
Who are LCO education partners?
By education partner we mean a group or organization who manage astronomy education activities with a particular target audience. These education partners observe astronomical phenomena with LCO and use the data as part of their educational activities.
For example, we have several education partners whose audiences are teachers. These partners provide teachers with an LCO observing account, educational resources (e.g. background science, tutorials on analyzing astronomical data, target lists), and mentoring to support them in the process of using the LCO observing portal to obtain data for use in their project.
In all cases, each partner communicates with their audience directly (either in person or over the internet) throughout their project. If any members of these education partner projects run into difficulties or notice problems, they report them to a mentor provided by their education partner. Each education partner has a point of contact who communicates any appropriate issues to LCO. These could be queries about the quality of images, reporting bugs in our observing portal, feature requests, or questions about how the scheduling software works. We then work with the partner contact to address these queries.
You can see a full list of current Global Sky Partners on our Global Sky Partners web page.