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SAVY 2019: Session 6, Day 2 – Stellar Astronomy (Rising 5th/6th)

Posted by on Tuesday, July 23, 2019 in Grade 5, Grade 6, SAVY.

Today in Stellar Astronomy, we did a mixture of lecture, experiment, and lab!
In response to some requests from yesterday, we looked at and listened to the pulses from pulsars at these three websites: Jodrell Bank Observatory, a better-set-up site than JBO, and Sounds from Space.  Make sure you check out the audio file with the 16 millisecond pulsars of 47 Tucanae!  We also took a quick look at the gorgeous Vela supernova remnant which is home to a lovely pulsar.
Thinking about how millisecond pulsars are formed brought us to multiple star systems and mass donation in binary star systems.  Talking about orbiting systems brought us to talking about Kepler’s Laws of Orbits and to various types of orbits (i.e. conic sections YouTube, Wikipedia)
All the talk of orbits and then gravity brought us to experiment with spacetime curvature (aka general relativity).  First we discussed the three-dimensional nature of spacetime curvature (good images here and here) but how we have to use a two-dimensional version thereof.  Then 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
– further information (that we didn’t cover in class): Gravity – From Newton to Einstein – The Elegant Universe.
After lunch, we really went for it with stars and stellar evolution.  We started talking about HR diagrams (started those yesterday) and examined a great Wikipedia data table with an eye to estimating the percentage of stars that actually do turn into black holes (we’ll discuss more black holes later this week).  Eventually we went to a website to start doing some research with stellar evolution!  We’ll finish it tomorrow.
For those who want it, here’s that image of the 100 planetary nebulae 🙂