Hunt for Black Holes

Hunt for Black Holes is a Workshop where high school students play as researchers. They will be able to work on preliminary results from EXTraS and will be introduced to the scientific research and industry in the field of Space Technology and applications.
The Workshop as a whole is a live role playing-like activity with a strong hands-on strategy and some more formal education.
The participating students, divided into co-operating groups, will attend laboratories and lessons given by scientific researchers and aerospace industry representatives.
The groups gather information about high energy astrophysics, related space technologies and data mining and analysis. As in any other live role playing activity, their ability to interact with experts will be fundamental to reach their goals.
The formal goal of the students is to discover as many black hole candidates as possible,  by exploring data extracted from the EPIC database and pre-selected by researchers. Whenever they think they discovered a black hole candidate, they are asked to submit it to their scientific tutor.
The Workshop lasts about 5-7 working days (40-50 hours), according to the specific situations and the students' curricula.
This educational strategy allows the attending students to use real scientific data and:

  • to see real life applications for their studies in the field of research;
  • to see real life applications for their studies in the field of space industries;
  • to acquire a deeper knowledge of the Universe and the space technologies ;
  • to focus on the main aspects of a complex problem;
  • to develop skills in interaction, knowledge-sharing and team-building, discussion and problem solving.


An experimental didactic program to be implemented in selected high schools of the participating institutions’ countries, aimed at involving students in research activities of the project.


We plan to run the workshop across a number of schools whereby the students that attend don't know each other. This way they also get the opportunity to work with other students of the same age but possibly from a different social and cultural backgrounds.
We plan also to run a further 3 day session (20 hours) after the main Workshop, in which the students can use their data analysis experience to make a virtual proposal for a simulated high energy space telescope to increase the probability to find black holes. They will be asked to take into account the scientific rationale, the industrial technologies and a virtual assigned budget.
The proposals will be discussed with a scientific high level committee, who will choose the mission which “will fly”. This activity goal allow the students to discover more on the interaction between science and technology and to understand the constraints due to a limited budget.
In order to prepare the Workshops, in every participating country we will collaborate with science teachers and communicators to develop hands-on modules both for teachers and students.
Namely, we will draft common Hands-on modules for students and Teacher training modules. The modules will have a common set of topics, but they will be tailored to the specific school curricula in the different countries. Every educational material (modules, lessons, videos) will be shared through a dedicated open access web site, so that the whole experience could be transferable to other schools.
We wish to underline that the "Black Hole hunt" will be the goal of a more general task of identifying the nature of sources discovered/characterized by EXTraS using automated algorithms developed by researchers. This will allow us to compare the results provided by the students to those provided by the WP7 of this project, devoted to "classification" of the sources. From this point of view, our educational activity will turn also into an experiment of citizen science, allowing us to assess the viability of involving non-expert (but trained) people in a complex classification task.
This activity is developed taking into account the Recommendation 2006/962/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning of European citizens.


Educational resources can be found here