Using the Sloan SkyServer

In Grade 9 Science, we are currently doing the Astronomy unit. Today we were looking at the shapes of galaxies, and a variety of deep sky objects one can see with even a modest telescope. Instead of just rambling off a list of objects, I did a quick introduction to the different types of objects, and then divided them up into groups and set them on a scavenger hunt using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey data ( This gave students an opportunity to explore real imaging data for specific types of objects.In other words, they had to observe, and think, while hunting for really cool stuff.

The best part of an activity like this is when students find something really great, and the gasps and squeels of joy spread through the class. Like when one student found NGC4030, a bright face-on spiral:

And then another found NGC4437, a grand, edge-on spiral:

For these students, they really felt the thrill of discovery, and that thrill can be contagious.

It was not a perfect class though. We had some technical issues that slowed us down – connection problems that prevented some students from accessing the site properly – and some students who were not engaged, despite the utter coolness of it. But that is another story for another entry; today’s post is about the awesomeness of hands-on learning with real data.


2 thoughts on “Using the Sloan SkyServer

    1. ed Post author

      Perhaps, but I can do my best to offer up as much coolness as I can, and perhaps get most of them engaged most of the time.


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