MountainQuest animated observatory dome
Background Experience The Task Resources Roles and Description The Process Conclusions

Background Experience
CERES Observatory Electronic Field Trip

The Task
Students divide into five research teams to make recommendations for building a new observatory for NASA.  Students will evaluate scientific and cultural data for five potential sites in Antarctica, Japan, Chile, and the United States and make presentations to a formal review panel. 

Team Roles and Assignments
Atmospheric Seeing Team Observatories are located in places where the atmosphere is very stable.  Team members will create digital movies from "test observations" to assess the quality of the seeing at various locations.
Cultural and Environmental Setting Team Observatories are used by astronomers from all over the world.  Team members need to analyze the language, culture, currency, geography, and history of the potential locations.
Meteorology and Climate Team Observatories need to be located where there are hundreds of cloudless nights and predictable weather patterns.  Team members need to evaluate the quantity of clear nights and describe the local climates.
Travel Team Observatories are used by astronomers from all over the world.  Team members need to critically analyze the accessibility and costs associated with getting to these locations.
Telescope Design Team Modern observatories are equipped with reflecting telescopes.  Team members will need to evaluate the benefits and costs of these designs:  multiple mirror, single mirror, adaptive optics, and recommend which to use.

The Process
  • Divide the class into groups of four students.
  • Each group should select a role.
  • Define individual responsibilities within each group. 
  • Each group will create an action plan.
  • Establish a timeline to implement your plans.
  • Begin quest (research, collect data, design a product, prepare to publish, present). 
Teacher Lesson Plans

Student Instructions

Assessment Ideas



You have now determined the best possible location for the observatory, based on the criteria listed above.  What other possible criteria do you believe could or should have been considered?  Would the inclusion of these criteria affect your choice?  Are there any other locations (besides the five given) that you believe should have been considered?   Why?