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Imaging the Universe – A New Perspective

The drastic changes necessitated by COVID-19 have made it especially challenging to teach courses with hands-on components. However, Oregon State faculty and students have still found ways to make the remote-learning experience valuable, fun and exciting.

“The universe is far more than what our eyes can see,” is the hook of one of this term’s honors colloquium courses, Imaging the Universe, with Tom Carrico from the Department of Physics. In the normal version of the class, students are able to use DSLR cameras to go outside and photograph the night sky, learning the imaging process and discovering different corners of the universe along the way.

Since students can no longer borrow camera equipment and meet in person, Carrico was able to find a solution: using remote-access software so students can do everything through his laptop. This strategy has turned out to be a great success.

Carrico explained, “They [students] were able to do everything a normal astrophotographer would do except stand out in the cold…. Each laptop runs its own Zoom session and is running camera-control software. The student is allowed remote control of the laptop and can do everything but point the camera. At the end of a session, I upload the student’s data to my Box account and then send them a link to all their data.”

The class typically includes “star parties” during the term. Carrico is taking advantage of the need to hold these remotely by connecting to telescopes in New Mexico and providing live images to students via Zoom.

This is just one example of how the Oregon State University community is displaying their strength and innovation through the global crisis. Students in Imaging the Universe, although they are not able to meet in person, are still getting the chance to discover and witness the wonders of the universe, without leaving their homes.

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