Astronomy Lecture 3: Planets Everywhere

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In this third lecture of three in the Frontiers of Science unit on astronomy, Columbia University professor David Helfand describes methods of detecting other solar systems and planets and their properties in the interest of answering the question: Is our solar system unique, or are there others like it in the Universe? A lecture video and companion PowerPoint presentation are also available on FoSO.

Astronomy Lecture 3: Planets Everywhere

Discipline:
Resource type:

Planets Everywhere

In this third lecture video of three in the Frontiers of Science unit on astronomy, Columbia University professor David Helfand describes methods of detecting other solar systems and planets and their properties in the interest of answering the question: Is our solar system unique, or are there others like it in the Universe? A lecture transcript and companion PowerPoint presentation are also available on FoSO.

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Scale Model of the Solar System

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This activity introduces students to the scale model and how it is used in science. Students collaborate (or compete!) to construct a scale model of the solar system using colored cards. This task works especially well as a warm-up in the first meeting of a small class, and may be useful in any class—not just one on astronomy—where scale models are introduced.

Astronomy Lecture 3: Planets Everywhere

Discipline:
Resource type:

Star wobble due to unseen planet.

In this PowerPoint presentation, the third of three in the Frontiers of Science unit on astronomy, Columbia University professor David Helfand presents methods of detecting other solar systems and planets and their properties in the interest of answering the question: Is our solar system unique, or are there others like it in the Universe? A lecture video and transcript are also available on FoSO.

Astronomy Final Exam

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Exam Hertzprung-Russell diagram.

This exam consists of 11 questions related to the astronomy materials presented in Frontiers of Science. The document provided here contains the questions and associated figures, while the answers are provided in a separate document. Each question requires students to apply their understanding of both content and the scientific habits of mind learned in the astronomy unit. (Note: We provide the exam questions and answers to guide instructors in designing their own assessments. Since this Web site is freely accessible to anyone, including students, we recommend revising these questions to suit your own course content.)

Astronomy Final Exam

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Theoretical equilibrium temperature as a function of distance from star.

This exam consists of 11 questions related to the astronomy materials presented in Frontiers of Science. The document provided here contains answers, while the full questions and associated figures are provided in a separate handout-ready document. Each question requires students to apply their understanding of both content and the scientific habits of mind learned in the astronomy unit. (Note: We provide the exam questions and answers to guide instructors in designing their own assessments. Since this Web site is freely accessible to anyone, including students, we recommend revising these questions to suit your own course content.)

Planetary Habitation and Detection

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The theoretical equilibrium temperature of a planet as a function of distance from the Sun.

In the first of these two multipart questions, students will apply their understanding of stellar luminosity and planetary equilibrium to estimate and interpret the theoretical "habitable zone" in our solar system. In the second question, students will use a simulation of Doppler spectroscopy to understand how detecting "wobble" is used to estimate a star's mass and orbital period. This assignment also gives students a chance to read and interpret a graph with a logarithmic scale and to consider the utility of simulations in science.

Planetary Habitation and Detection

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The theoretical equilibrium temperature of a planet as a function of distance from the Sun. (answer)

In the first of these two multipart questions, students will apply their understanding of stellar luminosity and planetary equilibrium to estimate and interpret the theoretical "habitable zone" in our solar system. In the second question, students will use a simulation of Doppler spectroscopy to understand how detecting "wobble" is used to estimate a star's mass and orbital period. This assignment also gives students a chance to read and interpret a graph with a logarithmic scale and to consider the utility of simulations in science.

Detecting Extrasolar Planets

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The electromagnetic spectrum.

In these two multipart questions, students will apply their understanding of methods for detecting planets, along with their understanding of control groups, correlation, and standard error in measurement.

Detecting Extrasolar Planets

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Percentage chance of a star having planets vs the metal content of the star.

In these two multipart questions, students will apply their understanding of methods for detecting planets, along with their understanding of control groups, correlation, and standard error in measurement.