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Good Astronomy Activities on the World Wide Web

 

Stars and Stellar Evolution

Black Hole Scale Model:

Quick math activity that asks students to calculate scale models of a binary star system with a black hole in it. [h]

Guest Investigator Puzzle:

Teaches students about how research is done with astronomical satellites, about the spectra of different types of stars in the extreme ultraviolet, and then challenges them to identify the type of a star by comparing its spectrum to known examples. A complex, but interesting, set of activities, from the staff of the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer satellite. [h]

How Hot is That Star:

This is mostly an on-line tutorial on how we use radiation from the Sun and the stars to measure their temperatures and other characteristics, which encourages students to search the web. We include because there is an interactive H-R diagram activity and other touches of recognizing that students learn better if they do things for themselves.

How Old Are the Jewels of the Night:

Students make an H-R diagram of stars in a cluster, and then learn about stages in the lives of stars. Requires printing an image on a color printer. [h]

Life Cycles of Stars:

Students are given pictures of human beings and of massive stars in different stages of their lives, and are asked to discuss and assemble them in sequence. Nice review activity after studying stellar evolution. [h]

Types of Stars:

Students use a radiometer and a light bulb with a dimmer switch to make connections between the temperature, color, and radiation output of a star. Part of the SETI Institute Life in the Universe curriculum. [e,m]

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Galaxies

Classifying Galaxies:

Students become familiar with Hubble's (somewhat dated) galaxy classification scheme and then try to fit galaxy images into that scheme. (A better version is in More Universe at Your Fingertips.) [h]

Galactic Inquiry:

Similar to the one above, this is another web-based galaxy sorting activity. It too suffers from using Hubble's outdated system, and not bringing in more modern views of galaxy evolution. But it's a good starting point for beginners. [h]

Galaxies Galore:can only be accessed from this top page

In this basic web-based activity, students build a galaxy like our own out of components, learn to identify different types of galaxies, and then play matching and other "card games" with galaxy images. [e]

Hubble Deep Field Academy:

Students work with real images from the "Hubble Deep Field" - a long exposure view of the most distant galaxies - as they learn about galaxy classification and estimating galaxy distances. (Good use of real data!) Some of the "too-cute" web features may discourage older students, but hard-copy versions are available and can be down-loaded. [m,h]

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Cosmology

The Expanding Universe:

An activity on the Hubble Law, where students measure the separation of dots on an expanding balloon and derive the relationship. Involves learning about cepheids and cosmic distance measurement. [h]

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Light and Color

Electromagnetic Radiation on Trial:

Amongst some more routine suggestions for investigating radiation, there is a gem of an idea to stage a trial about whether one or more bands of the electro-magnetic spectrum have done more good or more harm for humanity. [h]

Fingerprints for Light Sources:

Very basic introduction to spectra, using a homemade box to hold a diffraction grating. [m,h]

Inverse Square Law:

Students measure how light from a source spreads out using graph paper or a perf board. [m,h]

Making a Rainbow:

Students make a color spectrum in the classroom and then use simple color filters to examine their own ideas about color. [a]

Persistence of Vision:

Use a cardboard tube with a narrow slit to show how your eye adds together strips of light to give you the impression of a larger image. Can be applied to television or to the way information from space probes is added together strip by strip. [a]

Star Light, Star Bright:

This is an interactive tutorial on the electromagnetic spectrum, and how we use radiation to measure the temperature of stars. What makes this hands-on is that students can put in different parameters and see the effect on the screen. At the end students apply what they have learned to visual data from the Hubble. Requires a reasonably modern computer and modem. [m,h]

What's the Frequency, Roy G. Biv:

Basic activity in which students pull adding machine tape marked with wave cycles through a portal and keep track of frequencies. [m]

Why the Sky is Blue:

This demonstration for showing why the sky is blue can be converted to an activity where students show the effect of scattering for themselves. [m,h]

Why the Sky is Blue:

This demonstration, similar to the above, from the Exploratorium Snack-book of science activities, lets students demonstrate how molecules scatter light and change the colors of the beam. [m,h]

Your Pupil Changes Size:

Use a magnifying glass and a mirror to examine how the pupil of your eye changes size in response to varying light levels. [a]

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