2018 schedule

Sun 09:30-10:00
Mercure Conservatory

CMOS Cameras for Astronomy Education & Research

Steve Fleming and Tex Moon

Latrobe University

The Internet has brought with it new opportunities for public participation in scientific research. Initiatives such as ‘Zooniverse’ bring together a large community of interested ‘Citizen Scientists’ whose efforts are coordinated by front-line researchers. The catch words for such initiatives include people-powered, discover, teach and learn. Astronomy is one of the flagships of the Citizen Science movement. Automated survey instruments that accumulate large amounts of data, the small numbers of professionally-employed astronomers, and strong public interest in astronomy all provide a strong impetus for citizen science research in astronomy.

Many of the citizen science initiatives require only Internet access with the computer being the research tool. Interests among citizen scientists, however, vary widely with some enjoying being able to collect their own data and make the specialised measurements needed to confirm or augment discoveries made by professional astronomers. Citizen Science accommodates this wide range of interests but a stumbling block for many of those interested in collecting data is the cost of equipment. For example, astronomical CCD cameras with filter wheels and specialised filters cost several thousands of dollars. To properly use such instruments also requires more expensive telescopes and specialised supporting software.

In the past few years there has been a revolution in sensor technology that has seen the introduction of cheap CMOS astronomical cameras. CMOS technology offers not only a cheaper alternative to CCDs but has some other useful advantages including higher quantum efficiency and fast download times for images.

Latrobe University (LTU) runs a first-year astronomy course aimed at a broad cohort of students. Underlying the teaching of this course are the core elements of citizen science – discover, teach, learn; the emphasis being on engendering a lasting interest in astronomy and imparting the basic skills needed for students to participate in citizen science. This paper outlines work at LTU on CMOS cameras for Education and Research in Astronomy.