UATP Workshop

Using Astronomy to Teach Physics (UATP), a Topical Workshop, July 27-30, 2011

At the UATP topical workshop, 36 physicists and astronomers heard talks on contemporary astronomy, planned the production of teaching materials based on discoveries and technologies of astronomy, and envisioned how to encourage and foster the use of such materials to enrich instruction in undergraduate physics courses. 

The UATP program of distinguished speakers was assembled with advice from Roger Blandford (Stanford), David Charbonneau (Harvard), Chris Impey (U. Arizona), and Ed Prather (U. Arizona).  UATP was endorsed by the American Physical Society (APS), the APS Division of Astrophysics, and the AAPT Committee on Space Science and Astronomy.  The workshop was sponsored by CATS, the Collaboration of Astronomy Teaching Scholars, an NSF funded project of the Center for Astronomy Education in the Steward Observatory and Department of Astronomy of the University of Arizona.

The UATP organizers were Charles H. Holbrow (, Kevin Lee (, and Mario Belloni ( The event was hosted by the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Nebraska - Lincoln (UNL).  AAPT handled registrations; Kevin Lee worked with UNL to provide participants information about travel, lodging and childcare, and he arranged rooms for the workshop meetings.  He also arranged a program of interesting after-hour events for attendees.

The UATP workshop aimed to develop materials and strategies that facilitate, enhance and inspire the use of astronomy, astrophysics, and space science to enrich the content and teaching of undergraduate physics courses.  Some approaches considered were

  1. Textbooks with strong astronomy themes, e.g.
    1. Traditional university physics with many applications of mechanics illustrated with examples from astronomy and science 
    2. Syllabus to teach physics needed to understand the Astronomy 2010 Decadal Study and its report New worlds New Horizons: In astronomy and astrophysics.
    3. Build a physics syllabus using astronomy and space science materials available on the web. Identify areas and topics for further development.
  2. Problems suitable for homework and exploration: collect, compile and publish them on the web (ComPADRE). Identify useful new problems and volunteers to develop them. Many problems already exist, e.g.
    1. Keplerian orbits of stars around Galactic Center
    2. extinction curves of exoplanets
    3. light curves and Doppler signals from binary systems
    4. evidence for dark matter: failure of 1/r*r
    5. nuclear properties basic to stellar processes
  3. Technology modules:Instructional material based on advanced astronomy and space science technologies, e.g.
    1. MMT (Multi-mirror telescope)
    2. ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array)
    3. Kepler
    4. Chandra, Fermi
    5. detectors for IR
    6. detectors for x-rays, gamma rays
  4. New modes of astronomy: Develop material about novel astronomies, e.g.
    1. LIGO, LISA - gravitational radiation
    2. Pierre Auger Observatory - high energy cosmic rays
    3. Amanda - neutrinos
  5. Lab Experiences for physics teachers and students - Identify existing virtual and real hands-on experiences; plan how they can be adapted to physics instruction organize volunteers to do the adaptations and trials, e.g.
    1. Finding exo planets
    2. IRAF Lite [Richard Gelderman]
    3. Doppler
    4. parallax ...etc.

Download the prospectus as a pdf