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Starlab for Teaching and Outreach

The Institute for Astronomy has an important new tool for education and outreach–a Starlab portable planetarium. Victoria Ward, Limited supplied the funding to purchase the Starlab, which will be featured at the IfA-Manoa's April 26 Open House.

The Starlab is an inflatable dome that can be set up anywhere there is a 21-foot by 21-foot area of floor space and a ceiling height of at least 11 feet. It accommodates about 30 children or 25 adults. When folded up, the dome and associated equipment fit in a minivan.

On February 1, Andrea Pisacano, of the Kauai Children's Discovery Museum, visited the IfA to train nineteen astronomers, staff members, and K-12 teachers in the use of the Starlab. The participants learned how to inflate the dome and to place the cylinders that display the stars and Moon phases. Curriculum Development Specialist Mary Kadooka, who organized and attended the first training, held an additional training/practice session for several graduate students and third-grade teachers on March 1.

Also in February, Dr. Karen Meech used the Starlab for her advanced laboratory course, Astronomy 399, to assist students in learning the celestial sphere and the location of variable stars for their projects. Dr. Joshua Barnes, who is teaching the inaugural Astronomy 110 laboratory course (see "Private Gift Equips New Laboratory Course"), will use the lab to teach celestial coordinates after students have learned to locate stars in the sky. Other IfA faculty members are investigating the use of Starlab for introductory astronomy classes, but the logistics of setting it up in a standard-size classroom and accommodating all the students in a large class have yet to be worked out.