Summer SAVY 2016 (Session 5, Day 3) – A Walk Under the Stars: Astronomy and Asyrophysics
During day 3 of Astrophysics, we dove really deep into an exploration of how astronomers use light to learn about objects very far from us. We discussed how the atomic structures of different elements are related to the light these elements either absorb or emit. The result of these different structures is that each element has a unique “spectrum”, which is like a barcode of light. The students took a look at the light given off by different hot gases in the classroom and examined the unique signature of these different elements! They examined the spectra of different stars and identified some of the elements within those stars. We then examined (with tuning forks) how the sound of an object changes as it moves toward or away from you. We discussed how the frequency of light does the same thing, allowing us to tell which way and how fast distant objects are moving. At the end of the day, the students built model solar systems and examined how a very massive planet could cause a star to wobble. We finished with a brief discussion of how this distant star’s movement (tied with everything we’d learned about light today) could allow us to detect planets outside of our solar system!