Grade Level: 8-12
Content Area: Earth Science
Available as a pdf also.
Introduction and Purpose
Astronomy is a fascinating subject to study and is more than looking at lots of really beautiful images. Astronomy is really about piecing together the information coming back from the various telescopes and space missions. Outer space is still the uncharted frontier, though every day more and more of it is known. We are drawn to search the universe in order to answer questions such as: Are We Alone?, Where did we come from?, How is the universe changing?, Where does the light come from? Etc. As astronomers search for answers, they are making many new discoveries into how the universe came to be and how it is changing. Astronomers have to rely on observations to test their theories because they cannot duplicate experiments as grand as the formation of a star. Ninety to ninety-five percent of the information that astronomers use to study the universe comes from analysis of light spectra.
In this unit students will study electromagnetic radiation (light) and learn how astronomers use it in combination with a few of the other tools such as parallax, images, and the inverse square law. Students will also learn about some of the many objects that make up the universe. During this learning process, students will conduct a hands-on experiment to understand light, explore several inter-active on-line computer activities dealing with light, life cycle of stars, and galaxy comparisons and keep a journal about what they are learning. At the completion of this unit students will create a model of the universe and write an essay telling about how their understanding of the universe has changed by incorporating what they have learned about Earth’s place in the Universe, stars, galaxies and the tools of astronomy. Most of the activities will be done in cooperative groups, helping students to understand that many of the discoveries that astronomers make are done by a team approach and that the discoveries are scrutinized by their peers.
1. Given an assortment of everyday objects, students will construct a model of the universe and identify the model’s main features (young and old stars and galaxies, solar system objects and our place in the universe) to demonstrate their understanding of the structure and composition of the universe. Any one section of the model must be to scale.
2. Given the pre-study and post study student created universe models, students will write an essay comparing their pre-study model to their post-study model of the universe explaining how their understanding about the structure and composition of the universe has changed.
CA Earth Science Standards
Earth in the Solar System (Earth Sciences)
4 The structure and composition of the universe can be learned from studying stars and galaxies and their evolution. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a Students know galaxies are clusters of billions of stars and may have different shapes.
b Students know that the Sun is one of many stars in the Milky Way galaxy and that stars may differ in size, temperature, and color.
c Students know how to use astronomical units and light years as measures of distances between the Sun, stars, and Earth.
d Students know that stars are the source of light for all bright objects in outer space and that the Moon and planets shine by reflected sunlight, not by their own light.
e Students know the appearance, general composition, relative position and size, and motion of objects in the solar system, including planets, planetary satellites, comets, and asteroids.
1. Astronomy and planetary exploration reveal the solar system's structure, scale, and change over time. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a Students know how the differences and similarities among the sun, the terrestrial planets, and the gas planets may have been established during the formation of the solar system.
b Students know the evidence from Earth and moon rocks indicates that the solar system was formed from a nebular cloud of dust and gas approximately 4.6 billion years ago.
c Students know the evidence from geological studies of Earth and other planets suggest that the early Earth was very different from Earth today.
d Students know the evidence indicating that the planets are much closer to Earth than the stars are.
e Students know the Sun is a typical star and is powered by nuclear reactions, primarily the fusion of hydrogen to form helium.
f Students know the evidence for the dramatic effects that asteroid impacts have had in shaping the surface of planets and their moons and in mass extinctions of life on Earth.
g * Students know the evidence for the existence of planets orbiting other stars.
2. Earth-based and space-based astronomy reveal the structure, scale, and changes in stars, galaxies, and the universe over time. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a Students know the solar system is located in an outer edge of the disc-shaped Milky Way galaxy, which spans 100,000 light years.
b Students know galaxies are made of billions of stars and comprise most of the visible mass of the universe.
c Students know the evidence indicating that all elements with an atomic number greater than that of lithium have been formed by nuclear fusion in stars.
d Students know that stars differ in their life cycles and that visual, radio, and X-ray telescopes may be used to collect data that reveal those differences.
f * Students know the evidence indicating that the color, brightness, and evolution of a star are determined by a balance between gravitational collapse and nuclear fusion.
9-12 grade Investigation & Experimentation
1. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other four strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
a. Select and use appropriate tools and technology (such as computer-linked probes, spreadsheets, and graphing calculators) to perform tests, collect data, analyze relationships, and display data.
b. Formulate explanations by using logic and evidence.
English Language Arts
Writing 1.4, 2.3,
Written and Oral Language Conventions 1.1-1.6
Writing 1.3, 1.4, 1.6,1.7, 2.3c,d,e,f
Written and Oral Language Conventions 1.1-1.5
Technology Standards (NETS)
7. Routinely and efficiently use online information resources to meet needs for collaboration, research, publication, communication, and productivity.
8. Select and apply technology tools for research, information analysis, problem solving, and decision making in content learning.
Internet accessible computers (at least one per group of 3 students)
Web browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0/Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0
Plug-ins: QuickTime Player, Shockwave, and Adobe Acrobat Reader
Printer (color optional)
Word processing software
Handheld computer-Palm (optional)
Notes: Have the students to keep a journal/notebook (electronic or traditional) throughout this unit. At the end of each lesson or day’s activities, have the students reflect on what they have learned and how it has changed how they understand the universe. You may have them respond to direct questions relating to the activities. In the notebook they can keep the worksheets for the activities they have completed, keep their KWL chart, the picture of their universe model from the first lesson and any other notes they take.
Lesson 1: Modeling the Universe (~ 2 days)
(Lesson modified on September 20, 2005, from Modeling the Universe Introductory Activity, http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/seuforum/mtu/)
• Given various everyday objects, students will construct a model of the universe to demonstrate their preconceived understanding and misconceptions of the structure and composition of the universe.
• After a brainstorming activity about the astronomy and the universe, students will organize the brainstorming ideas/topics into a graphic organizer and then build a KWL chart.
Note to teacher: There is no formal assessment for this lesson. The students are constructing tools to help guide their learning through the unit.
Activity 1: Discussion (~10 min.)
1. As a class, use Inspiration’s rapid-fire option to brainstorm everything students know about astronomy and the universe. Because the study of astronomy is such a broad topic, break down the brainstorming into sub-topics: stars, galaxies, solar system, tools of astronomy, and space in general. Ask questions like How far away are (objects-stars, galaxies, planets, sun)? Can they be seen without the aid of a telescope? Can they be seen with a telescope? What do they look like? How big is the universe? This will help to bring out some of the misconceptions that students have about the universe, the objects in it and how astronomers know. Any ideas that create discussions amongst the students, mark for follow-up and tell the students that you will get back to it at a later time. (One of the culminating activities is about disproving misconceptions.) Print out a copy of the brainstorm for each student group (3 students to form a cooperative group), or if technology permits, have groups access the brainstorm on the student computers or handheld computers (PDA). Try to eliminate as much paper as possible.
2. (~15 min.) Assign each group the task of organizing the brainstorm into a logical format.
3. (~ 5 min) Discuss what a scientific model is, how it is used and what its value is. Ask students to name some familiar models: globe, doll house, map… Remember models some times don’t show the entire picture and can misrepresent some features of the real thing.
Activity 2: Making a model of the universe (30 min. or less)
1. Challenge students, in groups of three, to create a model of the universe in 30 minutes or less. This activity can be messy and involved or not depending on what kind of supplies you give the groups to use. Non-messy: Black construction paper and colored chalk. Messy: as many things you can gather to represent objects in the universe. For instance: construction paper, scissors, cotton balls, balloons, buttons, confetti, toothpicks, play dough, pompoms, slinky, bows, markers, glue, glitter, colored pipe cleaners, old CDs, ribbons, etc. For the messy models that are too big to keep around, take a picture of it. At the end of the unit students will create new models and compare them to their old models. The model will help reveal misconceptions that students have about the universe.
2. Each student takes on one role: artist-creates the model with input and assistance from other members; recorder-records model features (use the worksheet as a guide); speaker-explains the model to other groups. [The worksheet can be downloaded from the last page of the Modeling the Universe Activity pdf found here]
3. (~15 min.) Now have groups meet with two other groups (3 of the small groups to make one large group) and compare their models. Students must address the following: what features does the model represent, what features are misrepresented, what features are omitted, what questions did you have while making the model. Students will review each of the models. Students will need to ask questions and provide helpful suggestions with explanations (constructive criticism) to the other groups about organization, clarity of questions and ideas, and be willing to listen, defend their idea and incorporate changes.
• Construct a KWL chart about the universe.
• Prepare 3 direct questions about what they want to know about: the solar system, stars, galaxies, and Earth’s place in space. Note: Provide the students with the Earth Science standards that pertain to Astronomy for their grade level and the requirements for their portfolio (see below). The students can use these as a guide to help them refine their questions and prepare for their upcoming trip to the planetarium.
Taking a trip to the Planetarium: The planetarium field trip can come at any time between lesson 1 and the culminating activities. Before students arrive, they should be familiar with the questions that need answers. Refer students to their KWL chart. They will not be able to write anything while in the planetarium as it will be very dark. They will have to wait until after the show to write down information that they learned in the show. Enjoy the show and then ask your questions that didn’t get answered in the show. After leaving the planetarium and before boarding the bus back to school, if there is time, have the cooperative groups meet to debrief and share what they learned, what they liked/didn’t like, and what questions still remain to be answered. Back at school debrief as a class with each group contributing to the discussion. You may want to use one group’s graphic organizer or KWL chart to check off items that students heard about and saw in the show.
Lesson 2: Earth’s Geologic Evolution (~ 3 days)
CA standards: 8th grade Earth Science 4a,b,c,d,e; 9-12 grade Earth Science 1a,b,c,f
1. After viewing the movie “Origins: Earth is Born”, students will diagram 5 major evolutionary events of Earth’s birth into a flow chart format.
2. After viewing the movie “Origins: Earth is Born”, students will describe with supporting detail at least 3 new things they learned about Earth’s evolutionary history and one question that the movie didn’t answer for them.
Activity 1: Movie and worksheet
To begin the study of Space related Earth Science start with the movie Origins: Earth is Born, a Nova program on Earth’s geologic evolution. (The movie is 1 hour long) The link will take you to the Teacher resource page and program overview. There is also a link on this page for buying the DVD of this movie. Use the suggested viewing ideas that are listed and/or use the attached movie question guide worksheet, one per student. Allow time for students to complete the worksheet and discuss what they learned. Assessment option: group members check each other’s work for completeness and accuracy.
Activity 2: Flow chart
• Create a flow chart, using Inspiration or other software that can generate graphical organizers, depicting the major evolutionary events of Earth’s birth shown in the movie using their worksheet/notes.
• Share the flow chart with at least one other group and obtain feedback about how to modify it for clarity, organization, details, and accuracy.
• Transfer flow chart elements onto individual index cards (descriptions and/or drawings of elements like primordial Earth, Meteor bombardment, creation of Moon, volcanism, etc.). Student groups pair with another group and try sorting each other's cards into the correct order.
Wrap Up: Groups should now review their KWL chart and make any additions and/or changes. Also students should write a reflective journal entry describing at least 3 new things they learned about Earth’s evolutionary history and one question that the movie didn’t answer for them then share their reflection with one other person.
Lesson 3: Exploring Stars (~ 5 days)
CA Standards: 8th grade Earth Science 4a,b; 9-12 grade Earth Science 2b,d,f
• Given a set of 5 cards with star properties, students will be able to correctly order the stars by color, temperature or age.
• Given the temperature and peak color of emitted light of 5 stars, students will be able to correctly plot them on a graph.
• Given the HR diagram and two properties for each of 3 stars, students will be able to predict which phase of the life cycle the star is in, its class and type.
• In the Jeopardy Stars Game, students will correctly identify at least 3 question/answers in one or more of the categories: star properties, light, HR diagram, life cycle of stars, astronomical tools.
Warm-up: Discussion and demonstration (~ 10 min.)
• Students will now begin to study light and how it’s spectra is used by astronomers to learn about what is out in the universe. To introduce the topic ask students questions like “What color is light? How do we see colors? Is there more than one type of light? Where does light come from?” During this discussion use the think, pair, share form of cooperative learning.
• Shine a light through a prism to show a rainbow. Ask, “Where did the rainbow come from?” The Star Light, Star Bright activity (below) will explain how light is really made up of lots of different types of electromagnetic radiation.
Activity 1: On-line Activities: Star Light Star Bright
The Teaching Tips link on the Star Light, Star Bright page is an excellent resource and guide to the activities.
• Do the first activity: Catch the Waves (~40 min.) of the Star Light Star Bright on-line activities, found on the Amazing Space website, will help the students explore the electromagnetic spectrum. I suggest doing this activity together as a class to show the students how to navigate the site. Be sure to explore the Light Facts button whenever it comes up on the page and also the Brain Teasers button. Have students pair up to answer the Brain Teasers and then ask one or two groups to share their answers. You may wish to type up a list of all of the brainteasers and print it out for the students to read and answer. This way you have a record of their participation and thinking.
• Skip the second activity: Making Waves. Do the third activity, Heating Up (~40 min.), with students in their cooperative group. Heating Up will have students make the connection between color and temperature of objects and then apply this knowledge by plotting wavelengths of stars and then determine their temperature.
• Do the fourth activity (~40 min) Stellar Encounters. It has students order stars from hottest to coolest based on their colors. Again this should be done in groups.
Note: As the student groups (same groups as before) go through the activities, have one of the students from each group take notes, one operate the computer and the other be supervisor/reader. The roles should rotate for each of the activities. At the end of each activity there is a section called “What Do You Know?” and “Beats Me, You Explain It.” Have students complete these as a group. Monitor groups to be sure all are participating. You may wish to collect the groups’ notes and activity answers at the end of each activity for a quick assessment and then return it to be included in their unit portfolio. At the end of each on-line activity be sure to de-brief about the activity as a class. Have students make an entry in their journal too.
Activity 2: Life cycle of stars (~ 1-2 days)
• Use Imagine the Universe: Life Cycle of Stars. There is both a K-8 version and a 9-12 version but do the 9-12 version. Students read through the online information and then complete the activities “Those A-maze-ing Stars” an 8th grade activity but also appropriate for high school and “These Stars are Classified” (found at the bottom of the linked page) a high school activity but 8th grade can do it if they read the 9-12 version of the text. “These Stars are Classified” activity asks a series of questions about star types, and has students use the HR diagram to determine star properties. Print out the activities for students to use as they view the website. Answer keys: “Those A-maze-ing Stars”; “These Stars are Classified”
• Teachers, if you go to the index on the Life Cycle of Stars pages for the different grade levels, you can find the national science and math standards that the activities meet.
After this activity the students should answer the following questions in their journal:
How do astronomers use electromagnetic radiation to probe the universe?
Answer: They can observe how different objects reflect and absorb electromagnetic radiation in its different wavelengths. This can be used to take images of the object, time different kinds of events (pulses of energy from pulsar, eclipses,) and observe and measure energy distributions.
Where are telescopes located? Why in these locations?
Answer: There are lots of kinds of telescopes that measure different wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum. Some telescopes are ground based and they measure in the visible and radio range, where as space based telescopes can measure in x-ray, gamma ray, infrared and ultraviolet ranges. Ground based scopes cannot measure these ranges because our atmosphere blocks these wavelengths.
How are white dwarfs detected?
Answer: By soft X-ray and extreme ultraviolet because these objects are slowly cooling thus giving of low amounts of energy.
How are Neutron stars detected?
Answer: They give of X-rays and gamma rays, sometimes in pulses that are periodic which we then call pulsars.
How are Black Holes detected?
Answer: Smaller Black Holes are detected by observing nearby stars and other material. Super massive Black Holes have been detected using radio astronomy.
Assessment: Activities to summarize and apply what students have learned about stars.
Suggestion: do the question generation part of option 1, option 2, option 3 and option 4 as centers where groups will rotate through the centers. Give students about 8 to 10 min. per center. If students complete the task early then have them start working on their poster, option 5, or write in their journal about the on-line activities they have done if they haven’t done so already.
1. Jeopardy Stars game format: [categories: Light, Star Life, HR diagram, Astronomical Tools, Miscellaneous] Each student group must generate 5 questions for each category, ranging from easy to more difficult. To play: you need a host (teacher or student), a timekeeper, two referees and three teams. Use a team format instead of individual players. Three teams play at a time, while the remaining teams are the audience and referee. The audience teams questions are used for the player teams and vice versa. Roll a die to determine who goes first. That team must confer and choose a category, the game show host reads the question, teams confers and first team with a hand raised or dings a bell (what ever devise you use to alert the host) gets a chance to answer. Team will have 30 seconds to answer. If the question is answered correctly award “game points” and select another category. If the question is missed, then it passes on to the team on the right. No points are taken away. Continue the game for until each team has had a chance to answer at least three questions and then start a new game where the audience becomes the players.
(worksheets and activities link for options 2-4: star
2. Given a stack of star cards with some star properties, arrange the cards in order of temperature/color; using the Star Life set of cards, arrange the star life cycle.
3. Given the HR diagram and two pieces of information about each of five stars, classify the type of stars they are.
4. Graph the temperature and peak wavelength of emitted light of 5 stars, and determine the colors of stars based on their temperature.
5. Create a poster depicting the different star types, their characteristics and their life cycle. Before students make their poster have them create the rubric on which their poster would be graded. This could be done as a class.
Extension activity: “How to Build a Star”or A Star is Born
Navigator/supervisor: one who uses the mouse to go from page to page, reads
the upcoming question on the worksheet and helps the recorders find the answers
to the questions; enters information for interactive worksheets; assists recorder
2 in creating the graphic organizer; makes sure to keep everyone on task so
the assignments are completed on time.
Recorder 1/Speaker: one who records the information onto the paper copy of the worksheet; assists in the creation of the graphic organizer; speaks for the group when presenting the graphic organizer.
Recorder 2: writes down descriptions of each category of galaxy and some brief information about the sub categories; assists recorder 1 in how to answer the worksheet questions; uses the computer to create the graphic organizer.
Notes about the lesson:
It is self-guided. Tell the students that when they see the “Galaxy man” that you should click on him because he has important information to share. Be sure to visit all but the last two links of the links provided in the lesson. As they go through the lesson, recorder 1 should fill out one worksheet for the group. The other students will have time to fill out the worksheet as the group shares their information with another group. Teachers, print out a copy of the worksheet for each student. The worksheet and answers can be found on the teacher’s page of the lesson (see the teacher's page link at the bottom of the overview page).Student access to the lesson is also found at the bottom of the overview page.
Lesson: Classifying Galaxies (~ 20-30 min)
After completing the lesson, have the students meet with another group to share their experiences, and to check their worksheet answers. (Each student should now have their own copy of the worksheet for study purposes and fill it out during this group time.) This would also be a good time for students to compare the descriptions of each of the galaxy types and subtypes in preparation for putting it together in a graphical organizer. If they don’t have all of the information yet, Day 2’s activity will help to complete the descriptions. (~5-10 min)
Wrap-up: As a whole class ask each group to give a report about one thing that they found interesting and learned about. (~ 5-10 min)
For the remaining class time have student groups get started on assembling their graphical organizer to classify the different types of galaxies. (If time is short, assign for homework, sketch out a layout for their group’s graphical organizer that would have the basic information from the worksheet). The following day or day 3, each group member shares their layouts and as a group decide on the best one or combine features of each.
Graphical Organizer information:
There should be a drawing or image of each of the type of galaxy: spiral with all of the sub types, elliptical, and irregular. They should include: kinds of stars present in each type, the basic composition of the type, does the type contain a bulge, description of its shape, what holds it all together. Inspiration is a good software program for this activity. This page shows one method for classifying the galaxies but doesn’t include the sub-types of spiral galaxies.
Activity 2: Day 1
Tie to previous day: Review the main types of galaxies seen so far: Spiral, Bared Spiral, and Elliptical. Use the galaxy flash cards (Pattern for galaxies) to review the shapes and types.
Motivational set: show the movie Looking Deep. This movie explains the Hubble Deep Field, an image of which will be used in today’s lesson. View the QuickTime movie and preview it first to make sure it downloads OK.
Notes: Students should be grouped the same as the previous day but switch roles. Hubble Deep Field Academy has four lessons. For time's sake, Students will do the 2nd and 4th lessons but the other two lessons are also worth going through if there is time. Provide the students a copy of the lesson worksheet found at the top of the Cosmic Classifier page. View the Teaching Tips page for extra tips on this lesson.
Lesson: Cosmic Classifier is about identifying and classifying selected objects in the Hubble Deep Field image. The lesson is self-guided and interactive. The student will be required to input information onto charts on the computer screen, answer questions and record data results onto their worksheet. The students can access the lesson from the above link; just click on Cosmic Classifier and you will be taken to the student page.
After completing the Cosmic Classifier lesson, each group should meet with one other group and discuss their answers to the worksheet questions and how their ideas differed from the astronomers. (~ 30-40 min. total for lesson and discussion)
Next, go on to Universal Graduate lesson and do review questions: 1,2,3,5 on the first page and all questions on the second page. The students in the group should come to a consensus about their answer before writing it down. Again print out the worksheet, one per group.
Tie to previous day: As a review of the previous days’ lessons, use the questions from the Universal Graduate lesson (above). Also have student groups report on the challenges that astronomers face when classifying galaxies. Why are there disagreements?
For the remaining class time, the students should spend it completing their classification graphical organizer and presenting it to the class. Ideally it should be presented electronically rather than in a printed form and the speaker from each group should share highlights of their graphic organizer.
Show two large images of two types of galaxies side by side. Pick them from the lessons viewed or download Galaxy Trading cards. Ask students to create a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the two galaxies. See this link for an example.
Venn Diagram components: identify the type of galaxy (spiral, bared spiral, elliptical, or irregular) and at least four characteristics (color, shape, kinds of stars, composition-gas and dust, other descriptions)Students should be assessed individually for their group work contribution and for their Venn diagram comparing and contrasting two galaxies. The group should also be assessed for their galaxy classification graphic organizer. See attached rubrics.
Rubric for group work, Venn diagram, and Galaxy Classification Graphical Organizer
|Excellent||Improving||Needs more work|
|Contributions||Routinely provides useful ideas when participating in the group and in classroom discussion. A definite leader who contributes a lot of effort.||
Sometimes provides useful ideas when participating in the group and in classroom discussion. A satisfactory group member who does what is required.
|Rarely provides useful ideas when participating in the group and in classroom discussion. May refuse to participate.|
Working with others
|Almost always listens to, shares with, and supports the efforts of others. Tries to keep people working well together.||Often listens to, shares with, and supports the efforts of others, but sometimes is not a good team member.||
Rarely listens to, shares with, and supports the efforts of others. Often is not a good team player.
Focus on the task
|Consistently stays focused on the task and what needs to be done. Very self-directed.||Focuses on the task and what needs to be done some of the time. Other group members must sometimes nag, prod, and remind to keep this person on-task.||Rarely focuses on the task and what needs to be done. Lets others do the work.|
Describes 4 or more characteristics of the galaxies; correctly names the type of galaxy.
|Describes 3 characteristics of the galaxies; may misname the type of galaxy.||Describes less than 3 characteristics and may misname the galaxy type.|
Graphical Organizer & Galaxy Classification
|Organization is clear and logical; all parts are included.||Organization is somewhat clear and logical; or 1-2 parts are missing.||Organization may not be clear and logical; or more than 2 parts are missing.|
Hubble Images: http://informal-sci.stsci.edu/sources/illustrations/
Hubble Deep Field Academy: Day 2 lesson http://amazing-space.stsci.edu/resources/explorations/hdf/
Capture the Cosmos: Galaxies. Here you can find the links to online adventures, pictures, graphical organizers, trading cards, and more. The Galaxies Galore, Games and more site has a similar activity to day 1 but at a lower level. http://amazing-space.stsci.edu/capture/galaxies/
Looking Deep: a short movie about the Hubble Deep Field Image
Classifying Galaxies: Day 1 lesson; both the teacher and student pages can be accessed from here.
Galaxy Flash cards: pattern for galaxies a pdf http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/en/kids/galex_make2.shtml
Lesson 5: Tools Astronomers Use
Use the activities found in “A Teacher’s Guide to the Universe” by Lindsay Clark
• For scale models see Size of the Universe parts 1-6 on the table of Contents page.
• For distances start at Basis for Distance Measurement and do the following parts 13, 14, and 18-21. If you don’t have enough time to spend on these activities, then discuss the background information on parallax, Doppler shift, red shift, and galactic brightness.
This activity for Parallax that may be easier for the students to do. This is the html version but at the top of the page is a .doc file of the same page. It is well worth downloading the .doc file since it has diagrams for the set-up of the activity.
Lesson 6: Common Misconceptions in Astronomy
Activity: Before studying this unit students may have had some misconceptions about one of the topics you now have studied. However, students have since learned a great deal about stars, galaxies, origin of Earth and some of the tools astronomers use to make their discoveries. Hopefully their misconceptions have been cleared up. In this activity students will visit this website and pick two misconceptions from each of the following categories: Stars, Solar System, Galaxies, Cosmology (except for those that discuss God), Astronomers (found under History and Philosophy of Astronomy) and explain why they are misconceptions by sighting evidence to reveal the misconception. This would be another activity where students could create the grading rubric for the assignment. Below is a list of some common misconceptions cited on the Star Light Star Bright teacher page
Some common misconceptions are:
• Space is empty between planets, stars, and other objects.
• All radiation is harmful.
• The spectrum of electromagnetic radiation consists of only visible light.
• The Sun is not a star.
• We view all space objects with only an optical telescope.
• The Hubble Space Telescope can view all objects in space by traveling there to get a better image.
• Stars are on fire and can burn out.
• "Red hot" is hotter than "white hot".
Extension activity: make a list of astronomy facts and concepts mixed with some misconceptions and ask the students to pick out the misconceptions and then explain why they are misconceptions.
Activity 2: (To be done individually) In an essay, the student is to compare their first model with this revised model. The essay should address the following points/questions.
1. What are the differences?
2. Expand upon the following: (The quoted portions below are taken from Modeling the Universe Journal)
• "(The) revisions are based on the following new insights, data and or understanding…"
3. How has your understanding of the tools of astronomy affected they way you designed your new model? (Use of light, measurements of distances, etc.)
• “My Model now helps to explain…”
4. “Features of the universe this new model misrepresent”
• Why are these features misrepresented?
5. “Features omitted from this new model”
• Why are these features omitted?
Assessment: you may wish to create a checklist of the necessary components of the essay and follow the school’s writing rubric. Or, have students brainstorm what the science content of the rubric should be instead of using the checklist.
last updated: October 8, 2005
Webpage contact: Nick Strobel