Skip to main content

Fall SAVY 2017, Day 5- Journey into the Universe: Astronomy 101 (3rd/4th)

Posted by on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 in Grade 3, Grade 4, SAVY blog.

Today in Planetary Astronomy we learned lots about extrasolar planets (a.k.a. exoplanets)! First of all, we had to investigate methods of detecting them. This website has some particularly good animations: 5 Ways to Find a Planet
In our further study of such detection methods, one of the favorite events was we spun around with each other looking at how the center of mass/wobble detection method works (boy was I dizzy at the end of that exercise! 😉 ). We discussed the barycenter of the Solar System after a student asked if the Sun moves in response to the planets (it totally does!).
We also observed the Exoplanet-style transit light curve of the Venus that was recorded during the Venus transit that took place in 2012.
Students also enjoyed thinking about the “lensing” of light due to intervening massive objects (such as stars and planets) so we had to discuss the bending of spacetime again for a bit 🙂 Therefore we watched Spandex Gravity Well from U of Toledo and Brian Greene Explores General Relativity in His Living Room.

Then came our time to work with computer databases and go to the computer lab! While our main website for the day was exoplanets.org, we also looked at the NASA Exoplanet Archive and some of the always-updated statistics they’ve collected. For activities such as ours, I prefer exoplanets.org because it has a really simple interface and some very powerful tools. Students enjoyed trying to make histograms and scatter plots! Hopefully they can play with the data more!

Next week we talk more about extrasolar planets as well as about habitability with our Solar System as a model!

– Dr. G 🙂