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Summer SAVY 2018: Session 5, Day 4 – Stellar Astronomy (Rising 5th/6th)

Posted by on Thursday, July 19, 2018 in Grade 5, Grade 6, SAVY.

Let’s talk about light!  Light is pretty much the only information we get from the Universe so we have to know how it works.

At the start of our day, we discussed the different kinds of light (the electromagnetic spectrum) and what sorts of astronomical objects you can see with the different kinds of light.  Students enjoyed looking at multiwavelength observations of galaxies.  Some specific images that students liked were of M81 and the Cartwheel Galaxy (other version).

Then we used our diffraction gratings (introduced yesterday) to make observations of emission tubes like that for hydrogen.  Students recorded their data and then tried to match up their drawings with the key which was a fun exercise 🙂  The professionals have the NIST Spectrum Database to help be really precise with their measurements.

In talking about how most nebulae in space are made of hydrogen therefore look like the color of the hydrogen emission tube, we decided to compare two images of the Eagle Nebula – near true color and false color (specifically the “Hubble Palette” – and here’s an interesting article about “The Thing with Colors in Astrophotography”).  There was much discussion of which was better 😉

After an adventure outside to see the Sun’s spectrum through our diffraction gratings (we talked about safety first!), then we went back inside to experiment with spacetime curvature (aka general relativity).  We experimented with different types of orbits and how changing the mass of the central object changes the behavior of things around it.

Various examples of these demonstrations:
–  Spandex Gravity Well from U of Toledo
 Operation Spandex from the Society of Physics Students
Brian Greene Explores General Relativity in His Living Room
– further information (that we didn’t cover in class): Gravity – From Newton to Einstein – The Elegant Universe

Other images students want reference to:
– the annotated 100 planetary nebulae image
Crab Nebula

See you tomorrow for open house!

Dr. G


Spandex Gravity Well


Observing Emission Tubes


Viewing the Sun’s Spectrum Through Diffraction Gratings