Grades 9-12 Activities

You may wish to use these activities before, during, and after your Museum visit to focus your experience around an educational theme.



NYS Regents Earth Science Curriculum/The Physical Setting
Major Understandings
Physical Setting 1.2a
• The Universe is vast and estimated to be over ten billion years old. The current theory is that the Universe was created from an explosion called the Big Bang.
Physical Setting 1.2b
• Stars form when gravity causes clouds of molecules to contract until nuclear fusion of light elements into heavier ones occurs. Fusion releases great amounts of energy over millions of years.
Online Video: Journey to the Stars Trailer and Prelude
To prepare for your Museum visit, watch the trailer and the prelude with your students.

Class Discussion: Units of Measure
Pose the following questions to your students to introduce them to the units of measure used by astronomers:

• What types of measurements do astronomers use to quantify distances in space?
Answers may include: Distances in astronomy are too vast to be measured in kilometers and miles. The following units are used to measure the linear distances between stars, galaxies, and other distant celestial objects: A light-year (ly) is the distance light travels in one year (1 ly = ~1.0 x 1013 km or ~6.0 x 1012 mi). An astronomical unit (AU) is the distance between the Sun and Earth (1 AU = ~1.5 x 108 km or ~ 9.3 x 107 mi). A parsec (pc) is a unit of length, equal to just under 31 trillion km or ~19 trillion miles, or about 3.26 lys.

• Where is Earth located in the universe?
Answers may include: Earth is a planet in our Solar System, moving in orbit around the Sun. Our Sun is one of over a hundred billion stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. And our Milky Way Galaxy is one of several thousand galaxies in the Virgo Supercluster. Finally, this vast supercluster of galaxies is just a tiny part of the Observable Universe.

Reading: Light: Its Secrets Revealed
Have students read this online article to learn how light transmits information about the composition of distant celestial objects. These objects are so distant that even if we could travel at the speed of light, it would take us thousands of years to reach them. Ask students: What types of information does light provide about celestial objects too far for us to ever reach in our lifetime?
Answers may include: The color of the light that a celestial object emits tells us its temperature. The light given off at a specific frequency by an atom or molecule—spectra—indicates the composition of the object. Every different type of atom or molecule gives off light at its own unique set of frequencies, like a "light fingerprint."

NOTE: Distribute copies of the Student Worksheet before coming to the Museum.
Online Video: Interferometry: Sizing Up The Stars
Have students view this Science Bulletin video on the Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy (CHARA), the array of telescopes that uses the technique of interferometry to spot details the size of a nickel seen from 16,000 km away. Hear astronomers discuss how CHARA's renowned precision gleans valuable data on the properties and life cycles of stars. Engage students in a discussion about the scientific method using this video. Click on "Educator Resources" found in the "More About This Story" tab.


TIP: Please plan to arrive at the 1st floor space show boarding area 15 minutes before the show starts.
Journey to the Stars Planetarium Space Show (30 minutes)
Before the show, prompt students to do the following as they watch the show:

• Several times during the show, the Sun will be shown along with the planets of the Solar System. Note the relative distances and sizes of these objects.

• Identify the types of energy that the Sun emits.

Big Bang Theater, Hayden Planetarium (5 minutes)
When you exit the planetarium show (3rd floor), take the escalator down to the 2nd floor. Turn left and proceed towards the Big Bang Theater (bottom half of the Hayden Sphere). After the show, ask students:

• What is the evidence for the Big Bang?
Answers may include: The afterglow from the Big Bang that has traveled
millions of light years.

• What can light tell us about objects in the universe?
Answers may include: Through the science of spectroscopy, the light emitted by stars may be broken down into its various wavelengths. These wavelengths can be used to identify the various substances, or elements, present in that star's composition.

Cullman Hall of the Universe: Life Cycle of Stars & the Light They Emit
(30 minutes)
On the lower level, find the "Stars" wall. Have students explore this area of the exhibition using the Student Worksheet.


Hands-on Activity: Build a Spectroscope
Download and print instructions. Have students build a pocket-sized spectroscope from readily available materials. They can use their spectroscopes to examine different light sources in school, home, and around their neighborhood.

Online Activity: Astro Snapshots
Use the following Astro Bulletin Snapshots to illicit discussions with your students:

Betelgeuse is Shrinking
• What are some of the reasons, in general, for stars appearing larger, smaller, brighter or dimmer?
• What do astronomers know about the relationship between a stars's lifetime and it's changing size?
• What do you think may be the cause for Betelguese's recorded shrinkage?

Space Telescope Probes Nearby Stars
• What part of the electromagnetic spectrum accounts for the Sun's rays?
• How does COROT's measurement of starlight reveal a star's structure?
• What information does a star's apparent texture and vibration reveal to astronomers?

Star Formation on a Black Hole's Fringe
• What is the primary force that is responsible for the formation of a black hole?
• If astronomers cannot actually see a black hole, what is some of the evidence of its existence?
• How are models useful and why are the essential in most areas of astronomy?

Also at the Museum Beyond Planet Earth


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Journey to the Stars Online Educator's Guide