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Good Astronomy Activities on the World Wide Web

 

The Seasons and the Sun in the Sky

How Many Days are in a Year?:

This calculational activity by Evan Manning helps familiarize students with the Gregorian calendar, and then asks them to come up with a calendar system for another planet where the year is also not an integer multiple of days. [m,h]

Length of the Day:

In this advanced observing activity by Steven Edberg, students observe the transit time of the Sun and the stars and discover that the solar day is not equal to the sidereal day. [h]

Making a Sun Clock:

Instructions for building a sun-clock, using their print-out and a compass, to measure local solar time. [e, m]

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Constellations and Sky Observing

Create a Constellation:

To help students see how different cultures invented different visual interpretations of the same groups of stars, they are given a "new" star constellations and asked to draw a figure connecting many of the stars and then to invent a legend to go with it. Comes with a nice resource sheet showing how Ursa Major was seen by many different cultures. Part of the "Astro Adventures" book by Dennis Schatz and Doug Cooper. [e,m]

Find That Planet:

Alan Gould guides students on how to use the Web to find the location (ephemeris) of a planet in the sky for their location on Earth and their selected observing time and then to plot the positions they obtain on a sky map. [m,h]

Pinhole Protractor:

This activity, by Gene Byrd and Renato Dupke, teaches students to build and use an inexpensive device for estimating the angular sizes of objects. You need to scroll down past the main article to get to the activity. [m,h]

Sighting Angular Size:

Brief plans to help students construct a simple quadrant for measuring angular size and altitude in the sky. [m,h]

Sky Paths: Studying the Movement of Celestial Objects:

Basic, open-ended observing activity for young children, in which they learn awareness of motions in the day and night sky, and discuss how sky-related myths might come about. [e]

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The Scale of the Solar System

Build a Solar System:

Offers a spreadsheet to make a scale model of the solar system and beyond. LetÚs you scale things to the unit of a sheet of toilet paper, so students can measure scale by unrolling a roll of it. [a]

Cosmic Wheels: Measuring the Orbits of Planets:

Out in the playground, students make a model of the orbits of the planets and their orbital periods. Suggests using part of a videotape to give clues, but can easily be done without the video. Part of the SETI Institute Life in the Universe curriculum. [e]

Grapefruit Saturn:

Students construct a scale model of Saturn and its ring system. [m,h]

How High Up is Space?

Students construct a scale model of the Earth's atmosphere, where
the height of Mt. Everest is equal to the width of a pencil.  Then they
see where different things (airplane flights, the beginning of space,
the Hubble) fit on that scale. Most students are quite surprised by the
results.

Scale in the Solar System:

Students make a scale solar system, a scale Saturn system, and a scale model of a comet. These not original, but they are clearly explained by Mary Urquhart, who worked with several NASA projects. [m.h]

Scale Model Saturn:

Students construct a 3-D scale model of Saturn, its rings, and Titan from everyday materials in this activity by Mary Urquhart. [e,m]

Scrunch the Universe:

Very basic activity, building a scale model of the Earth-Moon system; also teaches the simple math of ratios and scaling. [e, m]

The Thousand-Yard Model: The Earth as a Peppercorn:

Making a scale model of the sizes and spacings of the planets using common household materials. A classic activity by Guy Ottewell. [a]

Toilet Paper Solar System:

A classic activity by the late Gerald Mallon is redone by Elizabeth Roettger. Students use rolls of toilet paper to measure of the scale of the solar system. [e,m]

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