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Worldwide Astronomy Education Program will Expand its Reach with Major Grant

Aug 27, 2021

Undergraduate physics students from South Africa attending a workshop in South Africa using LCO data, hosted by Global Sky Partner AstroLab. With AstroLab’s workshops these students now have astronomy curriculum in their universities.

More about this program. Image Credit: AstroLab.

Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) is pleased to announce that it has received a three-year grant of $1.2m from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. These funds will support our award-winning Global Sky Partners education program and will pay for an upgrade to the telescopes in our education network.

Ten 0.4-meter telescopes comprise the portion of LCO’s global network dedicated to education and they are located in both the northern and southern hemisphere rings. Hardware upgrades to the ten 0.4m telescopes will provide an education-focused telescope network that will deliver high operational reliability and the highest image quality for the next decade.

Las Cumbres Observatory launched the Global Sky Partners program in 2017 with the goal of inspiring students, teachers, and the public around the world to engage in astronomical and scientific endeavors. Global Sky Partners are a diverse group of educators and scientists who run their own fully-supported education projects and investigations using LCO telescopes. The LCO program provides over 1,250 hours of telescope time per year, mentoring and support tailored to each Partner, and a global forum for the Partners to learn from and support each other. Many student projects from the program are presented at astronomy conferences and published in scientific journals.

The Partners provide authentic scientific experiences using the LCO global robotic telescope network. LCO continues to expand the program to more audiences in underrepresented communities and the developing world, reaching people who would not normally be able to take part in programs involving professional scientific equipment. We increased the number of Partners in 2020 by 50% due to increased demand for remotely accessible resources driven by the pandemic.

The LCO education team just completed the selection of the 2021 class of Global Sky Partners. There are now 30 participating Partners and half of those support audiences in the developing world. Five of those members have been with us since the beginning in 2017 and ten of the projects are completely new to us. The Partners have a huge impact, reaching over 20,000 people directly and another 20,000 students and teachers who were members of the program. The Partner audiences are in 47 countries around the world.

The new grant from the Moore Foundation will allow LCO to continue to support 30 Global Sky Partners per year and will also allow us to give multi-year status to the stronger Partner programs. With these funds, we will be able to increase outreach to Partners in our most underrepresented communities and in the developing world.

Grade 8 students from Roggeveld primary school in Sutherland, South Africa, using the LCO resource Agent Exoplanet as part of the outreach program from South Africa Astronomical Observatory.  Image Credit:  LCO.

Dr. Edward Gomez, Education Director of Las Cumbres Observatory, is pleased with the impact of the Global Sky Partners and the grant that will sustain and enrich the program. "Each year, I am overwhelmed by the diverse range of projects provided by the Global Sky Partners,” Gomez said. "This support from the Moore Foundation will ensure we can match these high quality programs with professional quality, reliable instrumentation, well into the next decade.”

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has a long history of support for dynamic science education. Dr. Janet Coffey, the Program Director for Science Learning of the Moore Foundation, said, “We were drawn to LCO’s dual goals of advancing science and science education through their global telescope network. Use of this global network as an educational resource enables LCO and the organizations with whom they collaborate through the Global Sky Partners program to provide youth, teachers, and the broader public with compelling science learning experiences, including exciting opportunities to engage in authentic astronomical research. We are excited to learn from LCO and their partners as they expand the depth and breadth of their programming.”

High-school student, Beatrice Miller, from the Stanford Online High School Global Sky Partner. Beatrice is presenting her project on double star observations using LCO at a NASA conference for professional astronomers.

More about this program. Image Credit: Kalee Tock/LCO.

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The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area. Visit Moore.org or follow @MooreFound.

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