Earth from space at night

Organized by: Meredith Rawls, Lea Zernow

Ideas and notes:

Here is a link to a star magnitude measuring device activity: external link: .

It involves building a simple star magnitude measuring device out of cardboard and cellophane, and they could decorate them however they wanted. We'll do this last, and encourage the students to use the device to look at several stars in the constellation Orion during the week. Those who do the activity can report their findings at the beginning of the next week's session.

Other ideas

  • Give them each an energy efficient light bulb (to take home afterwards) and have them construct a decorative and well shielded light fixture intended for outdoors. Find a dark space where they can test their shields.
  • Compare the spectra of an incandescent and an energy efficient/fluorescent light bulb. (The latter has spectral emission lines whereas the former is a nearly continuous spectrum.)

Meredith says: as a note, the "earth at night" poster I mentioned in class has activities for grades 5-8 on the back, and is probably too simplistic and lesson-y. I'll still bring the poster since it's a great visual though! Here is a link to essentially what it looks like: external link: .

Also, I (Lea) have a computer program (Starry Night) that can show the difference in the night sky with different light pollution levels via a cutoff for showing star magnitudes. It might be helpful if we need to fill more time.

Meredith Rawls: ooh, ooh, bonus!! let's put in a plug for "Earth Hour" (see external link: ) on March 29! Let's print out a bunch of the postcards at external link: and distribute them!

Supplies needed:

  • spectroscopy glasses (similar to 3D glasses in appearance)
  • energy efficient light bulbs (60-100W equivalent?)
  • one light socket for each 5 or so students
  • wire of some sort (to allow a shield to attach to the light bulb base)
  • thin cardboard, clear saran wrap, pennies, glue, tape, scissors, markers, etc.
  • Maybe we could get some other materials from the physics dept that have cool spectra

Darryl Yong asks: Where to get spectroscopy glasses?
Meredith Rawls: well the one pair I have are exactly like this: external link: , but unfortunately they aren't taking orders until April 1 because they're so dang popular…
Lea Zernow: I have that pair too, yay AAS! I found a couple of other websites that sell them:
external link: (35-40 cents each)
external link: (40 cents each)
Darryl Yong: These two links seem to be for different things--should I get some of both or just one?
Meredith Rawls: Either one should be fine. They both look like glasses with (plastic) diffraction gratings for lenses, unless I'm missing something? Darryl Yong: I bought 50 from external link:

Outline of the activity:

timewhat's happening
3:00-3:05introduce light pollution - show poster and discuss night sky
3:05-3:25build star magnitude measuring devices
3:25-3:30hand out bulbs and spectroscopy glasses; have students compare the differences between sunlight or incandescent light and the fluorescent energy efficient bulbs
3:30-3:55have each student design, build, decorate, and test a cardboard lantern/shield
3:55-4:00clean up! remind the students to use their star magnitude device, and hand out earth hour flyers