Seasons is a middle school science topic where students commonly hold strong misconceptions. Ideas about seasons are so resistant to change because the Earth-Sun system is a complex, dynamic system that requires strong spatial reasoning to fully understand. Most "traditional" methods of instruction (lecture, textbook diagrams, passively-watched videos) do not adequately support students in the spatial reasoning tasks needed to understand seasons. The ThinkSpace Seasons Lab specifically targets the necessary spatial reasoning skills and strategies (for example, connecting the position of the Sun in a space-based perspective with the position in the sky in an Earth-based perspective), by blending visualizations from the WorldWide Telescope program and hands-on models. Student understanding of seasons after using the ThinkSpace curriculum increases with large effect size, and we have longitudinal data showing that two years post-instruction, students who used the ThinkSpace curriculum have stronger recollection of key seasons concepts than peers who used "traditional" curricula.
The role played by magnetic field during star formation is an important topic in astrophysics. We investigate the correlation between the orientation of star-forming cores (as defined by the core major axes) and ambient magnetic field directions in 1) a 3D MHD simulation, 2) synthetic observations generated from the simulation at different viewing angles, and 3) observations of nearby molecular clouds. We find that the results on relative alignment between cores and background magnetic field in synthetic observations slightly disagree with those measured in fully 3D simulation data, which is partly because cores identified in projected 2D maps tend to coexist within filamentary structures, while 3D cores are generally more rounded. In addition, we examine the progression of magnetic field from pc- to core-scale in the simulation, which is consistent with the anisotropic core formation model that gas preferably flow along the magnetic field toward dense cores. When comparing the observed cores identified from the GBT Ammonia Survey (GAS) and Planck polarization-inferred magnetic field orientations, we find that the relative core-field alignment has a regional dependence among different clouds. More specifically, we find that dense cores in the Taurus molecular cloud tend to align perpendicular to the background magnetic field, while those in Perseus and Ophiuchus tend to have random (Perseus) or slightly parallel (Ophiuchus) orientations with respect to the field. We argue that this feature of relative core-field orientation could be used to probe the relative significance of the magnetic field within the cloud.