Learning Hubble-Lemaître’s Law Using SDSS Data and Computational Thinking

Plot of relative distance versus redshift of galaxy population

American Association of Physics Teachers/American Astronomical Society Winter Meeting 2024

Modern astronomical science is increasingly driven by data science and computational thinking. It is possible to have astronomy students construct astronomy knowledge while employing computational thinking and data science pedagogies by using partially-reduced datasets like those from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) in conjunction with Python and Google Colab notebooks. Here, we explore a highly scaffolded activity for students to build a Hubble-Lemaître diagram using data from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) from SDSS. Educators with access to plates from the BOSS mission can tie the activity directly to data associated with the plate. Students access the data directly from the database and use Python and Google Colab notebooks to reduce, visualize, and interpret data in a highly scaffolded format. Students are asked to interpret plots and place data in an astrophysical context. This activity is part of ongoing research into the impacts of using computational thinking pedagogies with physics and astronomy students. This activity has been used in a high school astronomy course. The activity and all associated programming code are freely available as Creative Commons content.