Nebraska has never been an actual destination for me -- only a place I traveled through, in my lost youth, along the way to Colorado to see that girl, and the best Mexican food anywhere, yes, including Texas. Long, long stretches of Interstate 80. The plains. The Platte River. I think about those lost hours now whenever I jump online to spend an hour or two with the University of Nebraska's interactive Astronomy program.
This is a fantastic resource for learning the fundamentals of observational astronomy. A wonderfully realized exploration of the great clockwork that is our sky. Through a series of interactive flash animations one can meditate on the essential questions: Why does a last quarter moon rise at midnight. Why does the sun rise north of east in summer and south of east in winter? And why do we have seasons, anyhow? Along with about a thousand other questions. The models can, variously, be twisted, rotated, sped up, slowed down, have their point of view reversed... all to help one understand the actual by taking apart the apparent.
I'd have to say it's right there with The Stars, the classic introductory text by HA Rey, who's teaching method got a nod from Einstein. Maybe not as charming, but adding the element of animation really helps clarify the concepts.
Here is a sample animation. This one shows how of the appearance of the moon from our vantage point - waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full or waning - relates to the moon's orbit around earth, and the time of day.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln astronomy education group consists of a team of artists and programmers under the direction of Dr. Kevin Lee. We are actively developing a variety of astronomy education materials, including online labs, in-class think-pair-share questions, and assessment tools such as ranking tasks.