Universe in the Classroom
Welcome to the Universe in the Classroom! This electronic educational newsletter is for teachers and other educators around the world who want to help students of all ages learn more about the wonders of the universe through astronomy.
You can read the current issue, subscribe to receive updates and browse our archives. You can also learn more about the Universe in the Classroom and find out about how you can help by writing an article, translating the newsletter or making a donation.
Current Issue: Spring 2013
By Lynn R. Cominsky, Sonoma State University
“NASA’s NuSTAR Helps Solve Riddle of Black Hole Spin” reads the headline on a NASA press release on February 27, 2013. Other articles in the popular media with titles such as “Monster Black Hole’s Spin Revealed for 1st Time” and “Black Hole Speed Of Rotation Can Approach Speed Of Light, ‘Supermassive’ Study Shows” tout the discovery. Black holes have long fascinated the public with their mysterious properties, and the ease of incorporating them into science fiction story plot lines. A new Earth-orbiting observatory and NASA mission, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, is designed to study black holes and other high-energy objects and events. Observing in the most energetic band of x-rays, what sets NuSTAR apart is its ability to focus the incoming x-rays on to its detector. Launched in June 2012, NuSTAR has responded with significant discoveries within its first year of operation.
In this edition of Universe in the Classroom, learn about NASA’s NuSTAR mission, and how it is adding to scientists understanding of black holes, and other high energy phenomena.
by Larry Lebofsky, Nancy Lebofsky, Michelle Higgins, Don McCarthy, and the NIRCam E/PO Team
University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
Visualizing planetary motions and their relationships to each other is difficult for many learners. In most cases, activities will model the motion of the Earth around the Sun and the seasonal constellations without a lot of participation from the learners. Frequently used to model planetary motions, an orrery is a mechanical device that shows the relative positions of the planets in our Solar System. While visually appealing, most orreries do not give the learner a concrete experience in observing the motions from a perspective within the model. With a Human-Powered Orrery, participants take the place of the planets in the model, and use their positions as modeled in the orrery to predict what they will see that evening in the night sky.
The Human Orrery is an ideal interactive and kinesthetic tool useful with a wide grade-range, from upper elementary through adults. Educators can use the Human Orrery to model the constellations and locations of the planets when preparing for a family science night and to enhance the teaching of Solar System content at both elementary and middle school levels.
In this edition of Universe in the Classroom, find out about an Arizona project that engages learners in kinesthetic astronomy through the use of a human-powered orrery, and how you can create your own.
We thank the following Universe in the Classroom sponsors
Donat G. Wentzel
The Thomason Foundation