Johns Hopkins Gazette: August 21, 1995

FUSE Project Expected To Ignite Students' Interest In Sciences

Emil Venere
Homewood News and Information
     High school teachers in Baltimore will use a real space
mission to inspire the future generation of scientists, possibly
creating a course that students could take as an elective while
working side-by-side with astrophysicists.

     Youngsters will soon be able to experience firsthand the
thrill of using science to probe the mysteries of the universe.
They will participate in a space mission called the Far
Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, managed by Johns Hopkins
scientists and engineers.

     "So many times, students think science is not real; it's
just something you read about in a textbook," said Justin Parke,
a science teacher at Baltimore City College, a high school in the

     The FUSE spacecraft will provide an exciting window on the
universe by making observations in the far ultraviolet range of
the spectrum, a short-wavelength form of light that is invisible
to people.

     During its three-year mission in Earth orbit, astronomers
will use FUSE to pursue a broad range of goals, from observations
aimed at learning more about the birth of the universe, to
studies focusing on the evolution of galaxies, the nature of a
star's outer layers and the dynamics of Jupiter's atmosphere.

     The satellite will be operated from a control room, to be
built in the Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy, at 
Homewood. Because FUSE's orbit will straddle the equator, putting
it out of direct communication range from Baltimore, telephone
lines will link the control center to satellite dishes in Hawaii
and the Caribbean.

     It's got all the makings for the ultimate educational
experience. In addition to getting high school students excited
about science, the program will reach out to a population that is
not well represented in the sciences: women, African Americans
and Hispanics.

     "If we can get some of those students interested, that would
be a big plus," said Gale Seiler, a science teacher at Western
High School, an all-girls school in the city.

     Seiler and Parke--a 1994 Hopkins graduate in physics--are in
the early stages of organizing the program, called the FUSE
Outreach Initiative. They are planning to introduce FOI this fall
with an extracurricular program, in hopes of developing a
curriculum for an actual course next year. Students would earn
science credits, just as they would by taking any other science

     Since the mission will last for three years, a high school
student could conceivably stay involved from start to finish.

     "I think that's really the beauty of this; the students will
really be able to immerse themselves," Seiler said.

     FUSE is planned for a November 1998 launch. If the project
is given final approval by NASA this fall, scientists and
engineers will begin a fast-paced timetable to meet demanding
design-and-construction deadlines.

     And students could find themselves in the thick of the

     They might even build a simple instrument for the
spacecraft, with the help of engineers, and retrieve data from
their instrument during the mission.

     A grant from the Maryland Space Grant Consortium has enabled
Seiler and Parke to begin planning FOI this summer. But new
funding sources will be needed to train teachers from other
schools and carry out the program.

     The idea is to make the program available to any school.
Individual high schools will be able to decide how far they want
to go with FUSE. For example, a school could decide only to
organize an extracurricular activity based on the space mission,
or it could create a FUSE curriculum.

     "Once the program gets running, we hope to have all the
schools linked through the Internet," Seiler said.

     FUSE will enable astronomers to study the evolution of stars
in the Milky Way, "basically taking an inventory of the galaxy,"
said Chuck Holmes, a Johns Hopkins physicist on the FUSE mission
who is working with the high school teachers.

     Scientists plan to use information from FUSE to learn more
about the evolution of our galaxy. The astrophysicists will then
extrapolate information about the Milky Way to learn more about
how the universe evolved, said Holmes, an associate research
scientist and ground systems manager for the mission. 

     A major goal for FUSE will be to probe the "intergalactic
medium" of hydrogen and helium gas believed to have been produced
in the Big Bang of cosmic creation, 15 to 20 billion years ago. 

Go back to Previous Page

Go to Gazette Homepage