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Astrophysics: Sixth Grade through eighth Grade

  • Relative Sizes of Things

    Students create a scale model of the solar system using everything from a basketball (for the sun) to M&Ms and seeds representing the approximate sizes of the planets. Students can walk through the solar system telling what they know about each object. An interesting addition to this is construction of a model milky way showing distances to some of the stars and clusters we see in the night sky.
    Submitted By: Lou Mayo, Sligo Creek Elementary Astronomy Club
  • Space Art

    Students are given many different Hubble Space Telescope photos, and encouraged to create their own space art using the archetypes they find for nebulae, planets, stars and galaxies.
    Submitted By: Sten Odenwald, Holy Redeemer Elementary/Middle School Astronomy Club
  • Stanford Solar Center Spectrometer and Gas Tube Observations

    Similar to Atomic Fingerprints and Bar Codes activity. Students construct their own spectrometers from Stanford Solar Center kits. These spectrometers have scales showing wavelengths in angstroms. Students calibrate their spectrometers and are then able to accurately draw emission spectra from different gas glow tubes. Once it is clear that different gasses have different spectral signatures, students are challenged to figure out which gas tube is being used from its spectrum.
    Submitted By: Lou Mayo, Sligo Creek Elementary Astronomy Club
  • Quiz Show Game

    This game generates a lot of energy and enthusiasm! Students divide into teams. Each team picks a name. Then the club leader asks a series of questions on astronomy topics they have already covered. Teams get points for correct answers. A variation on this is having the teams make up their own questions. Additionally, teams can be supplied with text on astronomy as references. (Students love to hum the "Jeopardy" quiz show theme and make "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" jokes while the other teams are working on their answers).
    Submitted By: Lou Mayo, Sligo Creek Elementary Astronomy Club
  • Detecting Infrared Light

    Astronomers peer into the infrared to see molecular lines in atmospheres and stars as well as interstellar dust and protoplanetary disks. Students explore infrared light by aiming a TV remote control at a solar cell (e.g. from Radio Shack or Edmunds Scientific) attached to the input port of a small speaker. Solar cells are sensitive in the near IR so this becomes a cheap IR detector.
    Submitted By: Lou Mayo, Sligo Creek Elementary Astronomy Club
  • Tips for Holding a Viewing Night

    I have one online article that may be of interest to ASAC newsgroup members. It is a general introduction and set of suggestions entitled "Tips for holding a viewing night" at:
    Submitted By: Rob Hollow, CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility
  • Astronomy Screensaver

    It's a multi-facetted application that allows you to keep abreast of status reports, news and announcements of events taking place at ESA Science and the most recent near-real-time images from SOHO. I don't know of a NASA equivalent but many of the projects are joint with NASA. For those interested in Solar observations, there's less chance of missing exciting solar storms (like the one that's been going on for the last few days) because the screensaver updates its images whenever you're online.
    Download it here:
    Submitted By: Mike Cripps, Neatherd High School Astronomy Club
  • Extra-Solar Planets

    In our box of materials from NSN we were given a set of three yellow rubber exercise balls about two and one half inches in diameter. These symbolize stars. If you spin one of them you can see that it spins freely without any apparent wobble. Next we have a golf tee with a multi-colored ball about 3/4 inch in diameter glued onto the cupped end of it. the small ball represents a planet. You stick the tee into one of the yellow "star" balls. The tee represents the force of gravity between the planet and the star. When you spin this you can easily see the star wobble. Next try this using a pea sized lump of modeling clay on the end of a toothpick stuck into the third "star" and spin it. The wobble is not discernable.
    You can also use the ball on the tee "star" ball set to demonstrate how we might find exoplanets when they transit the star, or not depending on the angle of orbit.
    At the date of publishing the material in our boxes there were a total of 137 known exoplanets with two of them being Neptune size. The rest fall within the realm of being Jupiters, many of which are "hot Jupiters" as they are close to their star. One system is known to have four planets thus far! Pretty exciting!
    Submitted By: Neta Apple, Chouteau Astronomy Club
  • Outreach

    Most of the Orangevale Open Astronomy Club's activities focus on Outreach to local schools and to local organizations that want to hold a Star Party. We work with our local amateur group, Sacramento Valley Astronomical Society (SVAS). Our school has a ten inch Orion dobsonian and several binoculars, and our club members have about four telescopes, all together. Schools and organizations request Star Parties from SVAS, who then schedules the events.

    Before each event we spend some time at school talking about the best targets for the upcoming evening and the kinds of things we will tell the Party-goers. We spend some time with Starry Night software and a large projector picking targets that will appeal to the general public. Then we discuss typical misconceptions that the public might have and the clearest, simplest way to communicate a scientific understanding.

    My students also participate in the SVAS annual Astronomy Day at a local park. We've made demonstratio ns, posters, PowerPoint presentations and projects that we show at the events. Usually these presentations coordinate with California State Standards. We have a sun filter for our big telescope and make it available during the day of these events.

    Submitted By: Jim Carvalho, Orangevale Open K-8 School
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