Image of Dr. Faison teaching

Students admitted to YSPA will begin their studies for the program two weeks before the residential program, when they will receive our project guide as well as several self-study exercises in programming and observational astronomy. YSPA faculty will be available to help students with their online studies, and several online discussion sections will be held during the period to help students learn what they need to know before coming to campus. Students do not need to be at home for this self-study period, but they will need internet access and several hours per day for studying. 

Classes on campus start on Monday, July 9, the day after students arrive. YSPA classes meet in the Leitner Digital Planetarium Theater for about two hours for four or five days per week. We use a hybrid “flipped classroom” model for teaching, in which the students have studied the textbook and online videos before coming to class, and then class time is used to see the material presented in a different way by the instructor, to work with interactive demos on the dome of the planetarium, and to discuss the material with the faculty and other students. 

These math, physics, and astronomy topics will be covered in the classroom: 

  • Vector Algebra and Calculus (dot and cross products, time derivatives of vectors)
  • Numerical Integration 
  • Classical Astronomy 
  • Telescope Optics
  • CCD Imaging, Photometry, and Astrometry
  • Optical Spectroscopy
  • Planetary Geology of Asteroids and Comets
  • Newtonian Mechanics
  • Gravity, the 2-body Problem
  • Celestial Mechanics, Preliminary Orbit Determination
  • N-body Problem, Perturbations of a 2-body orbit
  • Orbit Model Optimization, genetic algorithms
  • Statistics, error propagation
  • Long-term Integration of Orbits (with the Rebound code)

In the afternoons, students will work in group tutorials with our faculty in the observatory computer lab to learn computer programming and data analysis techniques using the Anaconda Python 3 distribution and Jupyter notebooks, especially using these packages: 

Each student will have her or his own workstation in a “pod” of computers with her or his research team collaborators. Students do not need any experience in computer programming before coming to YSPA (although it helps a lot, and python basics is one of topics we will cover in the pre-program self-study curriculum). 

A goal of this curriculum is to quickly give the students the skills needed to complete their research project, but also to encourage students to move away from thinking about the research project as a classroom exercise that they need to “get the right answer to,” but rather to approach their research project in new and creative ways, just like professional scientists do. 

YSPA Participants coutesy of M. Faison