Applied Science - Physics (KA)
Lab 

   
OBJECTIVES:
  • Discovering change in the night sky.
  • Comparing the night sky.

VOCABULARY:

  • change
  • movement
  • star
MATERIALS:

Students observe stars moving using "night boxes."

BACKGROUND:

Observational skills are important in understanding how the Universe works. Through many years of observation, the science of physics evolved as a science that helps explain phenomena that we see every day, but are not sure how it works. This lab helps students focus on observing the night sky and then discusses what might cause it.

Although children see stars in the night, they really have not observed the stars movement. The changes are subtle, but real.

PROCEDURE:

  1. In this exercise, the students look at the star boxes to see if there are any changes. Students can use a flashlight to look in first, and then look in again to see the glowing images. For a large class, you can build several star boxes if you follow the specifications. See instruction at the end of the "Procedure" for more details on how to make them.
      
  2. If you do not want to make star boxes, you might want to make a set of glow in the dark worksheets. Use the enclosed sheet and outline the black dots with either glow in the dark markers, or cut out the appropriate pieces from glow in the dark sheets that you can purchase. Have the students work in groups and have them observe the different pictures to observe what is happening. The star boxes are much more effective, but if you have limited time and storage, this alternative works well.
      
  3. We recommend that you use "GLOW IN THE DARK" stickers. Make sure you shine a light in the box before the students look inside. Have the students do this as part of the exercise. For your own information, this is called phosphorescence, the light has excited the atoms of phosphorous to stay bright just a little longer.
      
  4. The logic behind students looking at 4 different boxes is for them to focus on the change in the star patterns. The children will have to look over and over again, to notice the changes. Make the patterns in the box similar, but different enough so they can see a difference.
      
  5. At home, see if their parents will let them go outside at night to see if they can detect changes in the stars. Yes, the stars do seem to move. The Earth moves and makes the stars seem as if they move. Stars also rotate and revolve, but the movement we experience on Earth is mainly because the Earth rotates on its axis from east to west.
      
  6. Point out that not all those points of light are one star. Many times they are many stars in a galaxy that we see on Earth as one point of light. Explain that "stars" are not really star-shaped. Stars really look like our Sun but we "see" a pointed polygon because our eyes see it "twinkle."
      
  7. There are several star box patterns that you can use. In the directions on the next page to make a star box, we use several examples. Basically, students should deduce that the stars remain stationary over the span of a night, but the Moon appears to move across the sky. Understanding why this happens includes learning that the Moon is attracted to the Earth because of gravity. A large mass like the Earth can control the movement of the Moon. The Earth and Moon together, revolve around the Sun, but the children are not seeing this during the night sky. The Earth is spinning on its axis as the Moon is revolving around the Earth. The end product is that the Moon looks like it is moving and we are not. However, we know that the Earth and Moon are both moving.
      
  8. Making Star Boxes for the classroom.

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