Ian Short is an Associate Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Saint Mary’s University, has taught the core first and second year courses in the undergraduate astrophysics program, and is a published researcher in the field of stellar atmospheres and spectra.
Do you teach a course in which students should understand why some spectral lines are always strong in hot stars, but weak in cools stars, or vice versa? Or why some spectral lines are always broad in dwarfs, but narrow in supergiants? Or the role that radiation plays in supporting a star against its weight? Or why an image of the Sun is darker near the limb than at the centre? Or even why hot stars are blue and cool ones red, and how colour can be quantified? These, and many other similar questions, are central to the stellar component of the undergraduate astrophysics curriculum at the second year and above, and even in first year courses aimed at science majors, and are key concepts for students going into any area of astrophysics.
How would your teaching be enhanced if you could bring to class a virtual star equipped with “parameter knobs” that responds instantly when the “knobs” are adjusted? What if you could then equip each student with a virtual spectrograph, photometer, and interferometer so that demonstration-based classroom pedagogy can be employed? How would your course be enriched if you could assign laboratory-style homework projects in which students investigate the structure and observable behavior of such a virtual star and independently investigate key relationships? What possibilities would be opened up in more advanced courses if students could view and capture the source code for such a virtual star?
What kind of classroom demonstration or lab exercise could you develop with GrayStar? Please leave any suggestions in the comments or on the Facebook page!