Sunday, 12 February 2012

Mobile Apps for a Physics / Astronomy Lesson

Electro-Magnetic Spectrum in Astronomy

A Wow factor activity using mobile phone apps

Science isn't just about content. It's the product of real people's hopes, passions and fears.  About every six months Joshua Peek gets the “hairs standing on end thrill of knowing something about the universe that nobody knows yet”.

Watch this video of Joshua Peek – an astronomer at Colombia University   -  3 mins

Essential Questions
How have recent developments in telescopes helped us discover more about our universe?
What new types of telescope are there? 
What types of electro-magnetic radiation come to Earth from space?
What will be the next thing Joshua Peek will discover?

Imagine you are a reporter for an online Science magazine. You have been comissioned to prepare an infographic about the Essential Questions (above) to go on the same page as an interview of Joshua Peek which has already been written. 
Students should consolidate their knowledge of the Electromagnetic Spectrum using the key information worksheet first.  Then they use a mobile phone of iPad to see some of these new telescope images.  Students experience for themselves the thrill of seeing the way our universe looks in wavelengths we don’t normally see, then they record a summary of all this in the infographic.

Running the Activity

  1. Watch the introductory video about the new images in astronomy.
  2. Explain the Mission - to produce the magazine Info-graphic
  3. Students find out the answers to some of the essential questions (see above) using the NASA website – Cosmic Colors.
  4. Students complete the worksheet of key information about  EM radiation and how each type is made.
  5. Students then use the Invisible Universe App on their phones to look at different objects in space.  Slide the slider to change the wavelength of E-M radiation being shown in the image.  Click the info button to find out the properties of the radiation and the objects in space.
  6. Then students complete the final stage  produce an infographic, showing the different objects in the universe, the EM radiation they each emit, and a brief summary of its properties
    Students could contribute to this spider diagram of 
    EM radiation using Popplet

Resources - Web 2.0

NASA online game about the Electromagnetic Spectrum and different kinds of telescopes   Cosmic ColorsSee the Universe with Cosmic Colors

popplet lite  Popplet

Resources - Android Apps
The Invisible Universe

Resources – iPad – iPhone   Apple Apps

popplet lite

popplet lite

           View In iTunes

Apple Astronomy Apps

           View In iTunes

Fermi Sky
           Fermi Sky
           View In iTunes
           View In iTunes
           View In iTunes

Portal to the Universe
           Portal to the Universe
           View In iTunes

Particle Zoo
           Particle Zoo
           View In iTunes
           View In iTunes

Technician preparation list.
No special equipment required.

This activity is entended to inspire students to ask questions and want to get to know more about the electromagnetic spectrum and the amazing array of structures that we can see in the universe.
This task is really designed for year 10 students

Syllabus links
IGCSE Co-ordinated Science
1.     Describe the main features of the electromagnetic spectrum.
2.      State the approximate value of the speed of all electromagnetic waves in vacuo.


Completion of an Infographic, or contribution to someone elses Popplet, will provide evidence for assessment.  So will the worksheet task.

Alternative Ways
This activity could be adapted to support the teaching of these IB topics.
IB Physics
1.     State that all electromagnetic waves travel with the same speed in free space, and recall the orders of magnitude of the wavelengths  of the principal radiations in the  electromagnetic spectrum
2.     Option E2 Stellar radiation and stellar type

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