We are mounting an exhibit explaining the techniques of coronagraphy and interferometry, and the science not only that they enable but that has been achieved so far, to integrate it into the extant exhibits in our museum. The exhibit, which will showcase the major elements of NASA’s Navigator Program, will be on view for the calendar year 2007 in the Hall of the Universe at the American Museum of Natural History, one of the country’s largest and most-visited science museums. The HOU currently exhibits much of the scientific material that comprises modern astronomy. However, little information is presented concerning how that scientific enterprise is conducted. By displaying actual modern and historical instruments, we will place the science in the hall in the context of the human endeavor to understand the universe. Furthermore, the science of astronomy is dependent upon the development of new techniques and instruments, an aspect of the field that is quite different from other scientific fields where the instruments for data collection are mass produced.
We are developing a comprehensive set of tutorial material in coronagraphy. This will bridge the current void between tutorial material in Fourier theory and research papers in coronagraphy, enabling the education of the next generation of astronomers conversant in coronagraphy that is essential for NASA to accomplish the goal of images of extrasolar planets. We will produce a review paper in coronagraphy, graduate level tutorials and exercises for a course in extrasolar planet detection and a web site dedicated to education and outreach of concepts in coronagraphy.
We are developming curricular enhancements that will train a significant fraction of US undergraduate astronomy degree majors in the theory and observation of exo-planets, and the astrophysical significance of these objects. The proposed activities would augment an existing academic program that trains large numbers of prospective astronomers and observatory technicians. The program will potentially reach well beyond the University of Hawaii at Hilo campus, in the form of a commercially available text suitable for wide use in undergraduate observational astronomy courses, that includes substantial discussion of the techniques and instruments used to detect and observe exo-planets. The proposed program includes substantial opportunities for students to observe putative and potential exo-planetary systems with research-grade telescopes and instruments, and participation by Keck Observatory via the Keck interferometer and adaptive optics programs. The program also provides for substantial training in long-baseline interferometry for two student interns at the Keck interferometer.