animated observatory dome imageWelcome to MountainQuest
"Where Should We Build Our Next Astronomical Observatory?"

The Task 

In this MountainQuest activity, you will work in teams to learn about choosing locations for astronomical observatories by considering cultural/environmental attributes, evaluating economic costs, creating multi-media presentations, and honing your Internet-research skills. Your goal is to determine the best location for a large, international astronomical observatory for NASA.  You will evaluate scientific and cultural data for five potential sites loctated in Antarctica, Japan, Chile, and the United States and make presentations to a formal review panel.  

Because this is an enormous task, your class will divide into five focused research teams.  It is absolutely critical that you complete your research quickly, yet be very complete.  Your fellow teammates are depending on you!  Once you have been assigned a team--follow the underlined hyperlinks below to begin your task.  The research teams are: 

Team Roles and Assignments 
Atmospheric Seeing Team Observatories are located in places where the atmosphere is very stable.  Team members need to create digital movies from "test observations" to assess the quality of the seeing at various locations.  The less "twinkle" or "scintillation" the better for long exposure photographs of dim/faint stars.
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.  This team needs to use the Internet and the library to search for cultural and environmental information about each country.
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.  Traveling to distant countries can be very expensive and even arduous. Teams members should develop detailed travel itineraries and budgets for each potential site.
Telescope Design Team Modern observatories are equipped with reflecting telescopes.  Team members will need to evaluate the benefits and costs of these telescope designs:  multiple mirror, single mirror, adaptive optics, and recommend  a type.