Discovering the Universe

Explore the concepts that underlie the study of the stars and other heavenly bodies, and how astrophysicists analyze their distant light for clues to their physical and chemical properties. This Special Collection sets out the fundamentals and demonstrates them in a set of articles, activities, and reference lists for all ages.

Filtering Light

Curriculum Materials

Filtering Light

All the color photos of astronomical phenomena that we see in magazines and books begin as three separate images—one red, one green, and one blue. Explore how CCD cameras and their color filters work.

The 3-D Universe

Article

The 3-D Universe

A 2-D map is a great guide here on Earth—and virtually worthless for finding your way around in outer space. Take a 3-D look at mapping our solar system and universe.

3-D Model of the Big Dipper

Curriculum Materials

3-D Model of the Big Dipper

In outer space, you might not recognize the Big Dipper. The stars that form this constellation exist in 3-D not 2-D—so the star pattern changes with your viewpoint. Take another look at the Big Dipper.

Parallax

Curriculum Materials

Parallax

When it comes to observing stars, our eyes have their limitations. Take a look at how astronomers combat these limits and accurately measure the distances between celestial bodies.

Gravity: It's Universal

Online Resource

Gravity: It's Universal

We owe our lives to gravity. It holds the atmosphere to Earth and keeps us all from falling off into space. Not to mention that without gravity, the stars and planets—including Earth—wouldn't even exist!

Space Games

Curriculum Materials

Space Games

Here on Earth, we tend to take gravity for granted. Yet the astronauts aboard the Space Station need to learn how to do everything without it. Can you imagine shooting hoops in a "weightless" world?

Space Shuttle Orbiter

Curriculum Materials

Space Shuttle Orbiter

Did you know that satellites and the Space Shuttle don't need engines to power their orbits? See how Earth's gravitational pull bends their forward motion and keeps them moving around the planet.

Reference List

Astronomy Books for Adults

Focus on the best books about astronomy, astrophysics, light, telescopes, digital imaging, and the 3-D universe with this list of recommended titles, suitable for older students and adults.

Calculate Planetary Distances

Classroom Activity

Calculate Planetary Distances

Students use Google Earth and an online calculator to create a scale model of the distances among the objects in the Solar System.

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