Focusing on Interest: Do High School Students Like the Idea of Helping Astronomers Revive Data in “oldAstronomy”


Internet technologies make it easier and easier to share data globally, enabling a dramatic proliferation of online “citizen science” projects. One new project, called “oldAstronomy,” is in development by the Zooniverse team, based at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, in collaboration with the WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors program at Harvard. The goal of the project is to restore hidden metadata to images in published astronomical articles, some more than 100 years old, making the images useful to researchers. In this paper, I investigate a possible role for high school students in the oldAstronomy project. Using two focus groups, one at Milton School and one at Cambridge Ringe and Latin School, I investigate which aspects of participating in oldAstronomy would be of most interest: connections to real data? to real scientists? connecting to other students worldwide? viewing interesting images? researching a topic related to images encountered? It was explained to the focus group students, before they were surveyed, that requirements for their participation in oldAstronomy will include: digesting a scient