Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: NITARP 2021 Application now available for educators

NITARP, the NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program, gets teachers involved in authentic astronomical research. They partner small groups of educators with a mentor professional astronomer for an original research project.

The educators incorporate the experience into their classrooms and share their experience with other teachers.

The program, for any interested formal and informal educators, runs January through January. Applications for the 2021 class of educators are available now on the NITARP website and due on Monday, September 14, 2020.

The program is funded completely via NASA ADAP and is contingent on the availability of funding.

Here are some things that make this program different from many (if not most) other astronomy programs for educators:

  • Each team does original research using real astronomical data, not canned labs or reproductions of previously done research.
  • Each team writes up the results of their research and presents it in a science poster session at an American Astronomical Society meeting (the AAS is the professional organization for astronomers in the US). The posters are distributed throughout the meeting, in amongst other researchers’ work; the participants are not “given a free pass” because they are educators and students. Each team also presents the educational results of their experience in the program.
  • The program runs over 13 months, not just a few days or weeks.
  • Teachers are encouraged to involve their students from the beginning of the program.

Most of the participants are high school classroom educators, but 8th grade, community college, and informal educators have participated as well. The kinds of educators they are looking for are those who already know the basics of astronomy and are interested in learning exactly how astronomy research is conducted. All educators must be US-based.

This program involves three trips — to an American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in January 2021 in Phoenix, AZ; to Pasadena, CA in summer 2021; and to the AAS meeting in January 2022. The January 2022 meeting is in Salt Lake City, UT.

While most of the work on these teams is done remotely using video conferencing and other online collaboration tools, the structure of the program heavily relies on three different face-to-face visits, necessarily requiring interstate travel and meeting in groups.

If the January 2021 AAS meeting is held online because of the pandemic, they may not be able to have a NITARP class of 2021. They will monitor the situation closely and inform applicants of progress as decision points come up.

The application itself consists of short answers to a few questions. They typically release the questions in May so that educators have time both to hear about the program and to get started writing; the website to which you need to upload your PDF answers will be available no later than early August. Please let them know if you wish to be explicitly notified via email when the site is open for submissions.

The direct link to the PDF application instructions is here.  This page has a generalized collection of resources for applicants, including FAQs and a pointer to the application.

For more information, please see their website, or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact them at their central email,


If you have any questions, feel free to email me at, or check out my Facebook Page to submit your questions there.

To view Amy’s previous columns, click here.