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Peer Review

AJ's Cosmic Thing (Physics, Astronomy)



Overall Numeric Rating:

4 stars
Content Quality: 4 stars
Effectiveness: 4 stars
Ease of Use: 4 stars
Reviewed: Mar 22, 2001 by Physics
Overview: An applet designed to facilitate naked eye astronomy. Running the applet downloads a database of over 1200 fixed and planetary celestial objects. Skymaps can be generated for any Julian date, and sequences of Skymaps may be used to animate celestial motions at a number of different time intervals.
Type of Material: Lecture/Demo, Independent Study
Technical Requirements: Due to the size of the class and database files, high speed internet access is necessary to run this applet.
Identify Major Learning Goals: Understand planetary and celestial motions. Provide interactive material giving information on celestial objects.
Target Student Population: General Astronomy classes
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: None

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: Fairly large set of selectable astronomical objects which, when clicked on, gives information about the object and, for many, images. Generates time-sequences of the skymap so that time changes can be observed. Also includes images of a fair number of objects, although some of these are ?artistic renderings?.
Concerns: Constellation names and the ecliptic plane are missing from the main view. Constellation names can be obtained by Ctrl-clicking on objects. This is not immediately obvious while in the main view. Similar commercial products exist with much more detail, but this material is free, web-based, and not meant as direct competition with more professional material.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: Recommeneded Uses for Material: Lecture/Demo, Independent study

This is a good demonstration of planetary motion, phases of the moon, and general star positions.

Concerns: Lack of constellation names and borders is problematic. The effectiveness of this material was judged for in-class demonstration. Individual student use will require additional instructional material and guidance.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: Layout is attractive and controls are relatively easy to use.
Concerns: Directions are somewhat sketchy in the main view, and somewhat difficult to find in the single long help file. Students in a general astronomy course would probably need help running this applet for themselves.