AJP Theme Issue

The May 2012 issue of the American Journal of Physics was devoted to papers relevant to the use of astronomy and space science research in physics courses. 

Decades of research in physics, astronomy, and space science have led to remarkable new instruments and technologies and astonishing discoveries.  This theme issue harvests some of this abundance and shows some of the problems of using it to enliven and update physics instruction.

The papers in this issue are based on achievements of astronomy and space science research.  They challenge us to use their underlying physics for effective and engaging physics instruction. 

The theme issue implicitly challenges

  • astronomers, space scientists, and physicists to describe discoveries and technologies and to emphasize their physics content in ways that will help physicists use them in their teaching;
  • teachers of physics and astronomy to develop or renew curricula by infusing them with discoveries and technologies of astronomy and space science;
  • astronomy and physics education researchers to

o       identify the basic concepts needed for students to understand the discoveries and technologies of astronomy and space science,

o       explore how the discoveries and technologies can be presented to most effectively realize the goals of physics instruction,

o       provide tools to assess how well students achieve the goals.


Astronomy's Discoveries and Physics Education will be the topic of the Gordon Research Conference on Physics Research and Education to be held June 17-22,  2012 at Colby College in Waterville, ME.  The co-chairs are Peter Shaffer, University of Washington, and Charles H. Holbrow, Colgate University; the vice chairs are Matthew Lang, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Mel Sabella, Chicago State University.