Astronomers are more than average stargazers; they are actually detectives with mysteries to solve, questions to answer (some that go back maybe billions of years ago) and evidence to collect in order to create compelling theories. Just as detectives need to examine forensic evidence, astronomers rely on data collection and analysis. What was designed in 2007 as a teacher's pilot workshop, which explored the case of supernova Cassiopeia A's death-by-explosion, grew into NASA's Space Forensics project. The workshop was developed as part of NASA's Imagine the Universe!, a service of HEASARC (the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center), whose group of astronomers and programmers provide educational materials and resources to students, teachers, and the public at large who want to learn more about the Universe. Designed for students age 14 and up, the Image the Universe! web site features resources for teachers, interactive activities, updates on astronomical news items, information on satellites, and the opportunity to Ask an Astrophysicist. In 2012, the Space Forensics project team, which includes education and outreach specialists from (USRA/CRESST), will be working on educator guides and classroom activities that will accompany each mystery-solving presentation. An interactive website is planned for 2013 that will make "cases" and activities available to wider audiences, allowing everyone to play space detective. Teachers, students, and the public will be able to explore and interact with the data, images, and techniques used every day by NASA scientists.
Astronomers are more than average stargazers; just as detectives need to examine forensic evidence, astronomers rely on data collection and analysis.