If you don’t have the patience to do multiplication on paper for every single math problem that comes your way, then you’ll really enjoy this math lesson! You’ll be able to multiply one and two digit numbers in your head, which you’ll be able to use when checking your answers on a math test, or just whenever you need to multiply something quickly when paper’s not around.
Light is energy, and it can be defined by four things: intensity (how bright), frequency (or wavelength), polarization (the direction of the electric field), and phase (time shift). We’re going to look at different ways to produce light as well as its properties.
Visible light (think rainbows) are only a tiny part of the wide electromagnetic spectrum that we can detect with our eyes. When you change the wavelength of light, you change the color of the light. If you pass a beam white light through a prism, the prism un-mixes the colors into its rainbow of colors that make up white light.
The intensity decreases as you move further away from the sun (but it decreases at a rate proportional to the distance squared). If we placed Earth way out where Pluto is, then the amount of light energy that reaches the distant Earth would be much, much less. Astronomers use this idea when looking at the stars. Just because a star appears brighter doesn’t mean it’s more luminous. The distance to the star also comes into play when figuring out stellar brightness (which relates directly to the star’s temperature).
When it’s too hard to count ‘em up and too much time to calculate, it’s time to guesstimate the answer. I use this technique all the time to “ball park” my answer so I know if I’ve made a mistake with my final answer.
This lesson is useful when you don’t need an exact answer, or if the numbers are way too long to remember. It’s really pretty simple to do: you round up or down, and the closer to the ones digit you can handle, the more exact your answer will be.
You can’t just shine a flashlight through a lens and call it a laser, because the way a laser generates light is what makes it a laser in the first place. The word LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.
Lasers are optical light that is amplified, which means that you started with one photon, and you ended up with two. Radiation refers to the incoming photon. It’s a word that has a bad connotation to it (people tend to think all radiation is dangerous, when really it’s only a small percentage that is). So in this case, it just means light in the laser. The incoming photon radiation starts the process of stimulated emission (when the electron jumps between energy levels and generates another photon). Put it all together and you have a LASER!
Scientists use lasers for cutting, melting, illuminating, measuring, communicating, and more. Lasers are monochromatic (only one color) and coherent, meaning that all the light is in phase with each other. Laser light is different from your standard light bulb, which is made of many colors and not in phase.
If you hate long division like I do, then this lesson will be very useful in showing you how to make the most out of your division tasks without losing sleep over it. It’s easy, quick, and a whole lot of fun! If you haven’t already mastered your multiplication tables, make sure you have one handy to refer to as you go along.
A meteoroid is a small rock that zooms around outer space. When the meteoroid zips into the Earth’s atmosphere, it’s now called a meteor or “shooting star”. If the rock doesn’t vaporize en route, it’s called a meteorite as soon as it whacks into the ground. The word meteor comes from the Greek word for “high in the air.”
Meteorites are black, heavy (almost twice the normal rock density), and magnetic. However, there is an Earth-made rock that is also black, heavy, and magnetic (magnetite) that is not a meteorite. To tell the difference, scratch a line from both rocks onto an unglazed tile (or the bottom of a coffee mug or the underside of the toilet tank). Magnetite will leave a mark, whereas the real meteorite will not.
If you find a meteorite, head to your nearest geology department at a local university or college and let them know what you’ve found. In the USA, if you find a meteorite, you get to keep it… but you might want to let the experts in the geology department have a thin slice of it to see what they can figure out about your particular specimen.
Spectrometers are used in chemistry and astronomy to measure light. In astronomy, we can find out about distant stars without ever traveling to them, because we can split the incoming light from the stars into their colors (or energies) and “read” what they are made up of (what gases they are burning) and thus determine their what they are made of. In this experiment, you’ll make a simple cardboard spectrometer that will be able to detect all kinds of interesting things!
Troubleshooting: This is a quick and easy way to bypass the need for an expensive diffraction grating. Use your spectrometer to look at computer screens, laptops, night lights, neon lights, candles, campfires, fluorescent lights, incandescent lights, LEDs, stoplights, street lights, and any other light sources you can find, even the moon through a telescope.
How do astronomers find planets around distant stars? If you look at a star through binoculars or a telescope, you’ll quickly notice how bright the star is, and how difficult it is to see anything other than the star, especially a small planet that doesn’t generate any light of its own! Astronomers look for a shift, or wobble, of the star as it gets gravitationally “yanked” around by the orbiting planets. By measuring this wobble, astronomers can estimate the size and distance of larger orbiting objects.
This method uses the idea that an orbiting planet exerts a gravitational force on the Sun that yanks the Sun around in a tiny orbit. When this is viewed from a distance, the star appears to wobble. Not only that, this small orbit also affects the color of the light we receive from the star. This method requires that scientists make very precise measurements of its position in the sky.
The Sun illuminates half of the Moon all the time. Imagine shining a flashlight on a beach ball. The half that faces the light is lit up. There’s no light on the far side, right? So for the Moon, which half is lit up depends on the rotation of the Moon. And which part of the illuminated side we can see depends on where we are when looking at the Moon. Sound complicated? This lab will straighten everything out so it makes sense.
One question you’ll hear is: Why don’t we have eclipses every month when there’s a new Moon? The next lesson is all about eclipses, but you can quickly answer their questions by reminding them that the Moon’s orbit around the Earth is not in the same plane as the Earth’s orbit around the Sun (called the ecliptic). It’s actually off by about 5o. In fact, only twice per month does the Moon pass through the ecliptic.
Today you get to learn how to read an astronomical chart to find out when the Sun sets, when twilight ends, which planets are visible, when the next full moon occurs, and much more. This is an excellent way to impress your friends.
The patterns of stars and planets stay the same, although they appear to move across the sky nightly, and different stars and planets can be seen in different seasons.
This is one of the finest charts I’ve ever used as an astronomer, as it has so much information all in one place. You’ll find the rise and set times for all eight planets, peak times for annual meteor showers, moon phases, sunrise and set times, and it gives an overall picture of what the evening looks like over the entire year. Kids can clearly see the planetary movement patterns and quickly find what they need each night. I keep one of these posted right by the door for everyone to view all year long.