Developments in astronomy

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1 This activity will form the main part of the lesson. It is a How science works task. Outline The main objective is to sort the milestones in astronomy into chronological order and then to use the information this provides to propose positions on the timeline for an additional selection of developments in astronomy. This can be carried out as a whole class activity or students can be divided into groups. You may need to discuss the terms years ago and AD to enable students to construct and understand the timeline. Version 1 Whole class activity Print out the milestones on pp.2-4 below and the pictures on the accompanying PDF. Cut them up so there are 30 cards in total. They could then be laminated to use again. Set up a washing line in the lab/classroom. Depending on the group, you could add markers to show each five hundred years, AD and BC. Hand out one card to each student. Get them to look carefully at their cards and to think about what it is referring to, e.g. what era, ideas, event it is representing? Students then have to find the person with the matching card and use a paperclip to join their cards together. They then decide together where on the timeline their milestone fits and peg it up. Then the developments can be displayed and, working with partners, students decide whereabouts on the timeline each should go. Alternatively, groups of students could be given one development to put in place. They will need easy access to the washing line. Students have to be able to explain and justify their decisions. Version 2 Group work Each group has a copy of all the milestones and pictures. They match the milestone with the correct picture. They then construct a timeline and fix each milestone to it. A long strip of graph paper or a washing line could be used for the timeline. The groups can compare their timelines. Then the group works together to assign the developments positions on the timeline. They should be able to explain and justify their decisions. Moving on The most recent developments in astronomy can be discussed and added to the timeline. Students could choose a milestone and write/describe how this has changed people s understanding of Earth and space or how it altered people s beliefs. What do they think the future holds? What changes in technology need to occur to help us to progress our understanding? Page 1 of 6

2 100 AD Ptolemy, a respected astronomer, said that the Earth was at the centre of the universe. All the planets and stars revolved around the Earth years ago The Egyptians had a basic understanding of the movements of the stars. They recognised five planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, moving around the Earth years ago Stonehenge may have been designed as an astronomical instrument. It lines up roughly with the position of the rising sun on the longest day of the year (summer solstice) AD Chinese and Arab astronomers recorded the explosion of a supernova. It was so bright that it shone five times more brightly than Venus and could even be seen in the daytime! The remains of that explosion have formed the Crab nebula years ago 1961 AD Russian Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space. The calculations of another Greek, Aristarchus, hinted that the Earth travels around the sun. Here are his workings out! Page 2 of 6

3 1609 AD Galileo saw craters on the moon and some of the moons of Jupiter, and he described Saturn as having ears AD Jansky discovered radio waves coming from outer space AD Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon. A year later a robotic Soviet space probe returned from the moon. This was one of the first of many probes to be sent to explore the solar system AD British astronomer William Herschel discovers Uranus, the first planet to be discovered using a telescope AD 1990 AD The first detailed images of distant galaxies were seen. We can now see 14 billion light years into the universe. Edwin Hubble used the 100 inch (2.5m) telescope to show that there are numerous galaxies beyond the Milky Way and that the universe is expanding; leading to the Big Bang theory of how the universe was created Page 3 of 6

4 1675 AD A Frenchman, Cassini, discovered that the rings of Saturn are split into two parts AD Nikolai Copernicus proved that the Sun is at the centre of the solar system AD Henry Draper produced a photograph of the fifth brightest star in the sky, Vega Page 4 of 6

5 Developments in astronomy Advances in our understanding of the universe have come from improvements in technology. Can you estimate when these developments took place? 1. Improvements in technology and design enable large mirrors, up to 2.5m, to be manufactured. Astronomers can now see more deeply into the universe. 2. The Space Shuttle sets the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit above the Earth s atmosphere. It can see 50 times deeper into space than any telescope on Earth. 3. Sputnik is the first artificial object to orbit Earth. It is unmanned. 4. The great Italian mathematician and scientist Galileo Galilei experiments with lenses to produce one of the world s first telescopes. 5. William Fox Talbot invents a light sensitive paper. He produces some of the first photographs. 6. Knowing that lenses disperse and refract light, Sir Isaac Newton experiments with concave mirrors. He constructs the first reflecting telescope. Astronomers are now able to view the solar system in more detail. 7. Cassini space probe is launched. Its mission is to explore the rings and moons of Saturn. 8. The first radio telescope is built to receive cosmic radio waves Page 5 of 6

6 Answers Images 1. Distant galaxy 1990 AD 2. Armstrong on moon 1969 AD 3. Aristarchus years ago 4. Ptolemy 100 AD 5. Hubble 1925 AD 6. Gagarin 1961 AD 7. Galileo moon drawing 1609 AD 8. Cassini 1675 AD 9. Herschel 1781 AD 10. Egyptian astronomy years ago 11. Jansky and radio waves 1931 AD 12. Crab nebula 1054 AD 13. Stonehenge years ago 14. Vega 1872 AD 15. Copernicus 1543 AD Developments in astronomy 1. Improvements in technology and design enable large mirrors, up to 2.5m, to be manufactured. Astronomers can now see more deeply into the universe. Between 1872 and The Space Shuttle sets the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit above the Earth s atmosphere. It can see 50 times deeper into space than any telescope on Earth. Between 1969 and Sputnik is the first artificial object to orbit Earth. It is unmanned. Between 1931 and The great Italian mathematician and scientist Galileo Galilei experiments with lenses to produce one of the world s first telescopes. Between 1543 and William Fox Talbot invents a light sensitive paper. He produces some of the first photographs. Between 1781 and Knowing that lenses disperse and refract light, Sir Isaac Newton experiments with concave mirrors. He constructs the first reflecting telescope. Astronomers are now able to view the solar system in more detail. Between 1609 and Cassini space probe is launched. Its mission is to explore the rings and moons of Saturn. After The first radio telescope is built to receive cosmic radio waves. Just before Page 6 of 6

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