Gravitational Waves and LIGO

Description:  Gravitational waves are disturbances in the fabric of spacetime and are generated by accelerated masses. Gravitational waves were predicted by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity but were measured for the first time in 2016 by two LIGO and Virgo observatories. These first waves originated from two merging black holes 1.3 billion light years away. This cutting edge phenomenon can be used to introduce gravity as a fundamental force and to give a sense of scale of the Universe.

Web Resources:  Gravitational Waves - Wikipedia, LIGO - Wikipedia


Protecting the Earth from Killer Asteroids

Description:  Asteroids have the potential to cause catastrophic loss of life on our planet upon impact. In 2013, the Chelyabinsk meteor injured 1500 people when it exploded over Russia. If researchers could identify potential asteroids early enough they could change their orbit to eliminate the threat to Earth. This phenomenon could be used to explore the motion of orbiting objects in the solar system or to gain a better understanding of gravitational forces and fields.

Web Resource:  Asteroid Impact Avoidance - Wikipedia


3D Tour Of Constellations

Description:  Constellations are groups of stars that form imaginary shapes in the night sky. However the constellations only appear in that specific shape because we are viewing them from one location in the Universe. In this short video common constellations are toured in 3D showing varied shapes depending on the perspective of the viewer. Students can observe this phenomenon using the Interactive 3D Map of the Universe. The brightness of a star depends on the type, size, and distance from Earth.

Web Resource:  Interactive 3D Map of the Universe


Woman Hit by Meteorite

Description:  Ann Hodges has the distinction of being the only human to have been hit by a meteorite. While Mrs. Hodges was napping on the couch the meteorite impacted her house, bounced off a table and hit her in the hip. She was able to walk away from the incident. Scientists can learn about the composition of the early solar system and the formation of the Earth by studying these primordial objects orbiting in space.

Web Resource:  Sylacauga (meteorite) - Wikipedia


Forced Perspective

Description:  Use the following video from Quirkology to start a unit on Earth's location in space. Freeze the video 7 seconds in and ask the students to rank the following objects from tallest to shortest: painting, man, ball, cup 1, cup 2, and chair.  Then watch the remainder of the video. This can be used to establish the relationship between apparent size and actual size of objects. For example, the moon appears larger than Mars in the sky because it is closer to the Earth.

Web Resource: Forced Perspective - Wikipedia


Total Solar Eclipse

Description:  The total solar eclipse of 2017 is an excellent phenomenon to use in an astronomy unit because many of the students will have heard of, or even experienced, the most recent eclipse. During a total eclipse the shadow of the moon completely blocks out the light from the sun. This phenomenon can be used to establish an accurate model of the Sun-Moon-Earth system.

Web Resource: NASA - Eclipse: Who? What? Where? When? and How?