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Good Astronomy Activities on the World Wide Web


Telescopes, Observing, and Instrumentation

Astronaut Challenge: Servicing the Hubble:

This is more about space technology than astronomy, but in this interactive module, students simulate what the astronauts go through when they go up to service the Hubble Space Telescope. Includes warm-up activities (such as simulating working in space by wearing thick gloves and trying to manipulate objects behind a screen), on-screen interactions, and follow-up activities that include writing tasks. [m]

Every Picture Tells a Story:

Younger students are shown a drawing that can be interpreted in two ways and then apply what they learn to planetary images. (A middle school version is at: [e,m]

Mountain Quest:

Students organize into research teams to recommend locations and characteristics for a new ground-based observatory; develops web-based research skills and teaches about requirements for a modern astronomical observatory. [m,h]

Name That Angle:

An activity by Scott Hildreth that explores the idea of angular resolution, helps develop math skills, guides students to doing analogies, and explains the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. [m,h]

Remember the Egg:

Students train their ability to look for subtle features while observing through telescopes by closely examining a carton of eggs and trying to distinguish among the eggs with drawings good enough so another group can tell which egg is which. Very clever. [a]

Astrophotography for Teachers & Students:

Some hints and activities for beginning photography of the night sky. Scroll down a bit to get to the write-up. [m,h]

Digital Images: From Satellites to the Internet:

This activity shows students how images are converted into digital bits, and how they can communicate simple information using black and white squares. [m]

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The Universe at Many Wavelengths

About Once A Day:

Uses the timing of gamma-ray burst discoveries with the Compton Observatory to teach students basic statistical concepts by looking at the data for 20 bursts. We only wish the statistical operators needed had been defined in the activity itself. [m,h]

Herschel's Infrared Experiment:

Instructions for recreating the 1800 experiment with which William Herschel discovered the existence of infrared radiation, using thermometers and the spectrum of sunlight. [h]

Infrared Light and Your TV Remote Control:

Some simple experiments students can do comparing the radiation from the remote control of a TV with that from a flashlight.

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The Search for Life Elsewhere

Inventing Life Forms:

Teams of students roll dice to pick some characteristics of an imaginary species on another world and then have to design an life-form with the characteristics the dice have assigned to them. Involves a great deal of thinking about how other species on Earth differ from us and each other. Part of the SETI Institute Life in the Universe curriculum. [m,h]

Lotto or Life:

Compares estimating one's chances of winning the lottery to estimating the chances of the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence (using the Drake Equation). Assumes some background in statistics and the Drake Equation. [h]

See also "Invent an Alien" under the Planets and Satellites category.

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De-bunking Pseudo-science

Do You Remember:

Suggests an activity to demonstrate the fallibility of human memory in surprising incidents. Teacher stages a brief class disturbance, and then suggests false memories to the class through leading questions. Relevant to assessing the value of UFO incident reports. [m,h]

Sun, Shadows, Surface Structure, and the Face on Mars:

Students use modeling clay and a bright light source to explore the kinds of shadows features on another planet might cast, and then examine the shadows on Mars images to see what they can learn from them. Then they look at the infamous "Face on Mars" image to understand what role shadows play in the misinterpretation of such images. [m,h]

Testing Astrology:

A suite of activities testing astrological claims, including: charting the birthdays of US presidents, comparing horoscopes in different newspapers, and mixed-up horoscopes. (Includes a skeptical article and bibliography about astrology.) [m,h]

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