Astrophysics - Unit Detail

Total duration

16 lessons, 1 hour each

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Lesson 3.1 – Measuring astronomical distances

Learning outcomes

In this lesson students will explore:

Big ideas

Learning Sequence

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  1. Welcome students to this lesson and encourage several of the students new to this unit to introduce themselves to each other and the class.
  2. Discussion – Teacher to pose the questions to students, Q - How do we know so exactly that our nearest star, Proxima Centauri is 4.243 light years distant? Q - How can astronomers measure these vast distances with any accuracy at all? Teacher led discussion of the difficulties involving in measuring these vast distances and the need for new units of astronomical measurement.
  3. Investigation – Teacher uses Prezi 3.1.1 with students to relate concepts to original question as not many objects are close enough to use parallax to determine their distance. Resources
  4. Investigation – Teacher introduces students to the idea of Luminosity and Brightness and why Cepheid Variable Stars are so important to determining distances because their period of pulsation is directly related to their mass and thus brightness. As a result, by finding these stars and carefully measuring their periods, their luminosity and brightness can be compared to determine their relative distances.
  5. Investigation – Students are introduced to Activity (3.1.3) - Pulse@Parkes online experiment using real data to measure the distance to 2 nearby pulsars OR undertake Activity (3.1.2). Resources

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  6. Investigation – Alternate Activity (3.1.2) Teacher leads students through the Cepheid Variable Star observation task to ensure that students are able to understand and interpret the star maps on the NVSES Google drive Resources

Home Learning

  1. Students to explore Activity (3.1.1) - Pulse@Parkes outreach website Resources

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  2. In your NVSES blog post, complete the following statement: I was pleased with the way I _________ during today's lesson but feel that I could improve the way I ______________ by ____________________.
  3. Watch elements of Activity (3.1.2) Perimeter Institute – What is the Universe made of? By Cliff Burgess on dark Energy. Resources

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  4. Encourage students to engage with Cepheid Variable Star observation task when the sky is clear – Activity (3.1.2). Resources