Astronomy Camps for Teens
General Information
We are very pleased to be offering Beginning and Advanced Astronomy Camps for teenagers from around the world. This year marks the 27th anniversary of the Beginning Camp! These camps provide a genuinely unique educational experience, unlike anything else in the United States. We encourage all students with a particular interest in math, science, optics, engineering, or astronomy to apply. These camps are focused on "hands-on" projects that are challenging and fun, we also schedule leisure time for recreational activities, but first and foremost these camps are designed as academic adventures.

Astronomy Camp engages students through the concept of doing science and engineering. It is an immersion experience like no other "Science Camp" can offer. The camps reinforce school subjects and provides for the students glimpses into future career areas. Students will develop scientific skills of experimentation and data collection using some of the many research facilities which have given Tucson the title "Astronomy Capital of the World." Daily lectures on scientific topics of current interest are also presented. This program is combined with a number of other fun activities relating to the unique environment of the Southwestern and Sonoran Deserts.

Steward Observatory astronomer Donald W. McCarthy is the Camp Director. Serving as camp counselors and teaching assistants are astronomy graduate and undergraduate students who guide the campers through the adventure that real "hands-on" science has to offer. The counseling staff uses a very "Youth Centered" approach and treat the campers as collegues, encouraging them to ask questions and help them find the answers to those that have puzzled them. The Director and counselors are with the students full time throughout the week. Other guest lecturers include astronomers, engineers, and space artists from other universities, NASA facilities, and research teams from around the United States.

Tuition ($975 for Beginning Camp; $995 for Advanced Camp) includes lodging, meals, transportation in Tucson, and all materials. Partial tuition scholarships are available and based on financial need. These scholarships come from former adult campers, from NASA Space Grant programs at The University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, the Planetary Science Institute, and from the Dudley Observatory in Schenectady, New York.

Beginning Camp
BEGINNING CAMP - (Offered for students late-12 through 15 years old). This Camp is for students who have a strong interest in science, astronomy, and engineering. Upon arrival, students will travel to Kitt Peak National Observatory about 1.5 hours drive southwest of Tucson. Once on the summit (6800 feet), they will immediately become real astronomers doing hands-on projects at many different telescopes. The Campers control and point the 11-inch HyperStar, 16, 20-inch telescopes, etc. to many interesting deep-sky objects and analyze them over six nights. Observing projects include astronomical photography, spectroscopy, electronic photometry, CCD imaging, participation in basic physics experiments, computer simulations and developing skills in navigation by the sun, moon and star constellations. On one night the Campers will use the historic 90-inch Bok telescope. We also expect to watch some sunsets through the 1.6-meter McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope and do some daytime experiments in solar observing. The 1.3-meter Robotically Controlled Telescope is also available to us for electronic imaging projects.

During daytime hours, Astronomy Camp becomes science camp and students undertake a variety of hands-on projects in science and engineering. Some examples of projects are measuring solar activity, interacting with professional astronomers on modern research topics, hiking a scale model of our Solar System in the unique environment of Kitt Peak, playing volleyball, and even eating ice cream from Saturn cooled by liquid nitrogen. There are also other hikes around the area to introduce basic concepts of ecology, geology, and orienteering. The students also experience a rare "behind-the-scenes" tour of Kitt Peak National Observatory. Typically, we also take a day trip into Tucson to visit the campus of The University of Arizona, the Pima Air and Space Museum, and the University's Mirror Lab.

Students sleep in the astronomers' dormitories along with the adult counselors and Director. Responsibility and teamwork are vital parts of the Camp experience. Students and adult leaders also work together in teams to prepare meals, clean the facilities, and to compete against other teams in some of the many science projects.

Here is a sample schedule from the 2005 Beginning Teen Camp which was held on Mt. Lemmon. You can also download movies of two classic Camp activities: Solar observing (9 Mbytes) at the 12-inch telescope and Newton's Cars (18 Mbytes).

Descriptions of the Camp experience are found in this article written by Dr. Susan Kern: "A Day in the Life of an Astronomy Camper" and also on David Levy's "Let's Talk Stars". This radio program featured the 2004 Beginning Camp including many student interviews. You can download the audio version (August 10, 2004) of this program if your computer is equipped with Real Player.

Apply for the next Beginning Camp to be held June 3-9, 2014.

Advanced Camp
ADVANCED CAMP - (Offered for students 14-19 years old). This Camp is for students who have completed either Algebra II or Geometry and have an interest in astronomy. Students are housed on Kitt Peak National Observatory for seven nights and eight days to allow maximum time on the telescopes. Students form and complete one or more research projects to present to the entire camp on the last night of camp. Research activities include astronomical photography, spectroscopy, electronic photometry, and CCD imaging for studies involving variable stars, spectral classification, asteroid orbit determination, etc. An overnight trip to Mt. Graham Observatory is also expected. This summer we plan to use the SMT radio telescope of the Arizona Radio Observatory, the 16- and 20-inch telescopes of the Advanced Observing Program on Kitt Peak, the WIYN 0.9-meter telescope with its 'S2KB' CCD, and Steward Observatory's 90-inch telescope for optical spectroscopy. We also expect to watch some sunsets through the 1.6-meter McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope and do some daytime experiments in solar observing. The 1.3-meter Robotically Controlled Telescope is also available to us for electronic imaging projects.

Students sleep in the astronomers' dormitories along with the adult counselors and Director. Responsibility and teamwork are vital parts of the camp experience. Students and adult leaders also work together in teams to prepare meals, clean the facilities, and to compete against other teams in some of the many science projects.

Here is a sample schedule from the 2005 Advanced Teen Camp which was held on Mt. Lemmon. Also, check out the Mercury article for a more in-depth look at what goes on during an Advanced Teen Camp.

Descriptions of the Camp experience from former students are found in "A Week At Astronomy Camp" published in The Reflector magazine of the Astronomical League written by Ms. Gayathri Cheran, "Astronomy Camp Adventures" published in Universe Today by Ms. Yvette Cendes, in this poem written by Ms. Lindsay Renick-Mayer who attended in 1999, and in this article written by Ms. Kristina Nyland who attended in 2001 and 2002. Yvette is a Masters degree student in physics at Case Western Reserve University. Lindsay was Wisconsin's Journalist of the Year and is majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Kristina graduated in physics/astronomy at the University of Michigan.

Apply for the next Advanced Camp to be held June 18-26, 2014.