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6-8 > Astronomy/Space
Grade level: 6-8 Subject: Astronomy/Space Duration: Two class periods
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Understanding the Universe

Students will understand the following:
1. The stages of evolution a star goes through are determined by the size of the star.

For this lesson, you will need:
ē Research materials about stars and the evolution of stars
ē Computer with Internet access

1. Review with your students what they have learned about stars. In the course of discussion, determine how much they know about star evolution.
2. If students do not fully understand the termsred giant,white dwarf,neutron star,supernova, andblack hole, have them use the research materials you have provided or the Internet to become acquainted with the terms and understand how they relate to the evolution of stars of different sizes.
3. Before continuing the activity, students should know the following three facts:
  1. A star the size of our sun will burn steadily for 10 billion years, then expand to a red giant, and finally collapse into a white dwarf about the size of Earth.
  2. A star three or four times the sunís mass will burn steadily for a shorter time, then expand into a red giant, and finally collapse, ending up as a neutron staróa super-dense star about the size of a large city.
  3. A star 50 times the sunís mass will burn for an even shorter time and may blow up as a supernova before collapsing and eventually shrinking to infinity, becoming a black hole.
4. Divide the class into three groups, and assign the students in each group to focus on one of the three types of stars just mentioned: a star the size of our sun, a star three or four times the sunís mass, and a star 50 times the sunís mass.
5. Have each student use her or his prior knowledge and information from research to draw a carefully labeled set of diagrams illustrating the stages in the evolution of the type of star his or her group has been assigned.
6. Display studentsí diagrams in the classroom so that the class can use them to compare the stages of evolution of the three different types of stars.
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Have each student draw a set of diagrams for all three types of stars.
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Discussion Questions

1. Discuss why some scientists were uneasy about the idea of an expanding universe?
2. Astronomer Wendy Freedman's observations of Cepheid variable stars in another galaxy indicated that the age of the universe is about eight-twelve billion years. Why did her discovery cause such a debate among astronomers? What elements of her discovery still lend themselves to argument?
3. What do scientists learn by observing parts of the universe in other than the visible parts of the spectrum?
4. What materials are believed to compose dark matter, and what can we learn about the universe by examining it?
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You can evaluate your students on their diagrams using the following three-point rubric:
Three points:diagrams carefully prepared; labels clear and correct; diagrams accurately illustrate the starís stages of evolution
Two points:diagrams adequately prepared; some labels unclear or incorrect; diagrams accurately illustrate the starís stages of evolution
One point:diagrams carelessly prepared; labels unclear and/or incorrect; diagrams reflect some inaccurate information about the starís stages of evolution
You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining how many diagrams will be required to illustrate the stages of evolution for each type of star.
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News Flash!
Have students prepare and deliver a one- or two-minute news report announcing one of the following discoveries or topics: Cepheid variables, supernovae, dark matter, cosmic background radiation, black holes, red shift.

Science Fiction: How Real Is It?
Divide the class into groups to consider the accuracy of selected science-fiction programs or movies that depict space travel. Students should note and explain any laws of physics that appear to be ignored or altered in the programs or movies. You may prefer to choose one such program to have the students watch as a group in order to detect scientific inaccuracies.

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Suggested Readings

"Fires at Cosmic Dawn"
S. George Djorgovski, Astronomy, September 1995

"A River in the Universe"
Adam Frank, Astronomy, August, 1996

"Stellar News for Stars and Dreamers"
William J. Cook, U.S. News and World Report, January 29, 1996

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Comet Shoemaker-Levy Collision with Jupiter
This site contains wonderful pictures of the collision between the comet and Jupiter. It presents good background information, close-ups, up-to-date scientific data as well as space and ground-based observations.

The Solar System
This is a good resource for teachers and students on the solar system and individual planets. It offers pictures, animation, and references, with hypertext leading to more information.

GLONASS (Russian Space Force)
This is a very interesting site to visit after students have explored other similar American sites. It takes you to Russia to learn about the Russian space force, or GLONASS. Students will immediately notice that this Russian Web site is not as colorful nor graphic-rich as American sites; it is mostly text. It is a good contrast to our sites (this could be used as a "compare and contrast" writing assignment). Click on the English version, then to GLONASS. The introduction explains what GLONASS is and its history. Go back and click on KOI-8 version to show students have the site looks in Russian.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    Cepheid variables
Definition:A class of giant, pulsating stars, whose brightness varies in a periodic manner, which is used to measure distance in astronomy.
Context:Edwin Hubble was studying a distinctive kind of star called a Cepheid variable.

speaker    globular cluster
Definition:A compact, spherical-shaped cluster of stars that shares a common gravitational association.
Context:We're looking at globular star clusters - 100,000 to 1,000,000 stars.

speaker    light-year
Definition:In astronomy, the unit of length used to measure distance i.e. the distance that light traveling in a vacuum covers in one year.
Context:They say the star is four and a third light-years away.

speaker    red shift
Definition:The shift toward the longer wavelength, or red section, of the spectrum.
Context:It was Hubble who recognized the significance of the red shift in the light.

speaker    spectrum
Definition:The distribution of electromagnetic radiation from a radiant source, spread out into wavelengths or frequencies.
Context:Visible light, the rainbow of red to violet, is a small slice of a larger spectrum.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:9-12
Subject area:space science
Understands essential ideas about the composition and structure of the universe and the Earth's place in it.
Knows that current theory states that about ten billion years ago, the entire contents of the universe expanded explosively into existence from a single, hot, dense chaotic mass; our solar system formed from a nebular cloud of dust and gas about 4.6 billion years ago.

Knows that at the beginning of the universe, stars formed out of clouds of the lightest elements and became hot as the material condensed and began releasing energy from the nuclear fusion of light elements into heavier ones in their extremely hot, dense cores; some stars eventually exploded, producing clouds of material from which other stars and planets would condense; this process of star formation and destruction continues.

Knows that the scientific account of the universe comes from studying evidence about the contents and imagining, with the help of mathematical models and computer simulations, how the contents got to be the way they are.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:physical science
Understands motion and the principles that explain it.
Knows that because the light we see from distant galaxies has longer wavelengths than the same light here on Earth, astronomers believe that the whole universe is expending.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:physical science
Knows the kinds of forces that exist between objects and within atoms.
Knows that gravity is a universal force that each mass exerts on any other mass; the strength of the gravitational attractive force between two masses is proportional to the masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:technology
Understands the nature of scientific knowledge.
Knows that scientific explanations must meet certain criteria; they must be consistent with experimental and observational evidence about nature; and they must include a logical structure, rules of evidence, openness to criticism, reporting methods and procedures, and a commitment to making knowledge public.

Knows that because all scientific ideas depend on experimental and observational confirmation, all scientific knowledge is, in principle, subject to change as new evidence becomes available; in areas where data, information, or understanding is incomplete, it is normal for scientific ideas to be incomplete, but this is also where the opportunity for making advances may be greatest.

Knows that from time to time, major shifts occur in the scientific view of how the world works, but usually the changes that take place in the body of scientific knowledge are small modifications of prior knowledge; change and continuity are persistent features of science.

Knows that in science, the testing, revising, and occasional discarding of theories, new and old, never ends; this ongoing process leads to an increasingly better understanding of how things work in the world, but not to absolute truth.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:technology
Understands the nature of scientific inquiry.
Knows that hypotheses are widely used in science for choosing what data to pay attention to and what additional data to seek, and for guiding the interpretation of the data.

Knows that conceptual principles and knowledge guide scientific inquiries; historical and current scientific knowledge influence the design and interpretation of investigations and the evaluation of proposed explanations made by other scientists.

Knows that scientists conduct investigations for a variety of reasons, such as exploration of new areas, discovery of new aspects of the natural world, confirmation of prior investigations, prediction of current theories, and comparison of models and theories.

Knows that results of scientific inquiry - -new knowledge and methods - emerge from different types of investigations and public communication among scientists; the nature of communicating and defending the results of scientific inquiry is guided by criteria of being logical and empirical and by connections between natural phenomena, investigations, and the historical body of scientific knowledge.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:technology
Understands the scientific enterprise.
Knows that scientists in different disciplines ask different questions, use different methods of investigation, and accept different types of evidence to support their explanations; many scientific investigations require the contributions of individuals from different disciplines and new disciplines of science often emerge at the interface of two older disciplines.

Knows that creativity, imagination, and a good knowledge base are all required in the work of science and engineering.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:technology
Understands the nature of technological design.
Knows that a solution and its consequences must be tested against the needs or criteria the solution was designed to meet.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:technology
Understands the interactions of science, technology, and society.
Knows that science often advances with the introduction of new technologies and solving technological problems often results in new scientific knowledge; new technologies often extend the current levels of scientific understanding and introduce new arenas of research.

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