Physics & Astronomy faculty lead a variety of outreach programs for local and national communities. The Department has shared a 40-year history with Lincoln Public Schools beginning with the Saturday Science program, and continues to develop innovative ways to bring science to the general public. Outreach includes the Undergraduate Women in Physics Conference, the Jerry E. Ruckman Public Lecture Series for area high school physics teachers, Research Experiences for Undergraduates and Teachers, and more.
In addition to annual activities, public nights meet throughout the year at both observatories maintained by the Physics & Astronomy Department. Behlen Observatory, located near Mead, Neb., hosts an open house each fall and spring. Weather permitting, the public can view the stars through the 30-inch reflecting telescope. The Student Observatory, located on campus, contains a 16-inch telescope and hosts public viewings on a monthly basis.
Cosmic Ray Observatory Project
CROP is a teacher enhancement program with scientific links to the Pierre Auger cosmic ray study. Each summer, Professors Greg Snow and Dan Claes host high school teachers and students from around Nebraska who come to campus to learn about cosmic rays, develop the detection/GIS systems necessary to install cosmic ray detectors on their high-school rooftops and to use these systems to help acquire data from high-energy cosmic ray showers.
In this program, fifth- and sixth-grade children spend two hours in the UNL Department of Physics & Astronomy for four consecutive Saturdays each February. One hour is spent listening to a presentation by a university faculty member on a specific topic (spinning tops, electricity and magnetism, color and light, etc.). The students spend the second hour working in small groups, conducting hands-on experiments related to the same concepts.
Starting in the 1999 season at UNL home football games, Professor Timothy Gay presented a 60-second physics lesson via HuskerVision to a stadium full of 76,000-plus fans. Since ending the segments after the 2001 season, the concept has gone international with the NFL.