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| September 2020 |

Montana Learning Center Awarded Grant by Montana Space Grant Consortium to Offer Remote Telescope Teacher Training

The Montana Space Grant Consortium, a component of NASA’s National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, has awarded the Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake a grant to fund the Learning Center’s development and presentation of two new online teacher training courses in collaboration with Montana State University’s National Teacher Enhancement Network. The courses will teach Montana middle and high school educators how to use and do research with a robotic telescope, which will allow them and their students to contribute to publishable research. The new courses expand upon a similar course offered by the Learning Center through MSU in the Spring of 2020.

Since the courses will be taught online, teachers can take the courses no matter where they live in Montana. Through these teachers, students across Montana will have unprecedented access to a robotic telescope and the opportunity to contribute to publishable astronomical research.

The first course will introduce participants to robotic telescopes and will teach them how to:

  • remotely operate the Learning Center’s 16-inch, research-grade, Ritchey-Chretien telescope (located on a mountain top in New Mexico);
  • take, prepare and evaluate astronomical images;
  • evaluate observing programs for their effectiveness in the classroom; and
  • create a curriculum for classroom use of a robotic telescope.

The first course will run from October 5, 2020 through November 20, 2020 and is open for registration now. Click here to find out more about the course and to register.

The second course, scheduled for the MSU Spring 2021 semester, will build upon the first course and will teach participants how to apply research photometry on astronomical images. It then will have course participants perform research on variable stars using photometric filters. Collected data from this research will be submitted to the American Association of Variable Star Observers (“AAVSO”) International Database.

The courses are free and will provide participants up to 60 hours of continuing education credits (Montana Office of Public Instruction renewal units).

Teachers who complete both courses will be invited to attend a weekend workshop at the Learning Center in the summer of 2021 to provide feedback to the courses’ instructors and use the telescopes at the Center’s observatory. Teachers will earn an additional 20 hours of continuing education credits for attending the workshop.

The courses will be taught by the Learning Center’s Executive Director, Ryan Hannahoe, and Peter Detterline, lead astronomy instructor at the Learning Center.

In addition to the Montana Space Grant Consortium’s grant, the Learning Center received a donation by Christian Perez valued at $12,000 per year that allows the Learning Center’s Ritchey-Chretien telescope to be used for the new courses, and a donation by Mike and Lynn Rice of New Mexico Remote Observatories for the telescope’s hosting, valued at $18,000 per year.

Teachers can contact Ryan Hannahoe by email at if they have questions about the courses.

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