, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 43-49

A “Thinking Journey” to the Planets Using Scientific Visualization Technologies: Implications to Astronomy Education

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Abstract

We present a novel approach to teaching astronomy and planetary sciences, centered on visual images and simulations of planetary objects. The basic idea of the “Thinking Journey” concept is to take the students to other celestial objects as tourists, and to teach science through the observatio of various natural phenomena in these new environments. The power of scientific visualization, through still and dynamic images, makes such a journey an exciting learning experience. The introduction of new technologies (3D animations, virtual reality) greatly enhances the visualization capabilities the teacher can use, allowing him to simulate actual flights over the terrain of other planets and to study them as if observing from a spaceship in orbit. The present program focuses on the study of the Moon and of the planet Mars, by means of observation, interpretation, and comparison to planet Earth. Students learn to recognize geological and atmospheric processes, discuss astronomic phenomena, and discover that the same basic physical laws govern all objects in the solar system.