Getting Started

One of the most incredible areas of science is astronomy. I’m constantly amazed by how much astronomy inspires excitement and awe in people, no matter what they study or what careers they have later in life. There’s just something magical about the celestial skies, and that’s what I’m going to share with you in this section.

Our first dip into astronomy is going to cover planets, stars, the sun and moon, and let you play with phases, transits, and ways of observing different astronomical phenomena, just like real scientists do. Although there’s a handful of activities here, if you feel your student is ready for it, feel free to dive into the full-blown Astrophysics section and find experiments that will challenge and engage them in a meaningful way.

By the end of the labs in this unit, students will be able to:

  • Use observations of the sun, moon and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted.
  • Make observations at different times of the year to relate the amount of daylight to the time of year.
  • Differentiate observation from inference (interpretation) and know scientists’ explanations come partly from what they observe and partly from how they interpret their observations.
  • Measure and estimate the weight, length and volume of objects.
  • Formulate and justify predictions based on cause-and-effect relationships.
  • Conduct multiple trials to test a prediction and draw conclusions about the relationships between predictions and results.
  • Follow a set of written instructions for a scientific investigation.

Select a Lesson

Special Science Teleclass: Astronomy
This is a recording of a recent live teleclass I did with thousands of kids from all over the world. I’ve included it here so you can participate and learn, too Our solar system includes rocky terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars), gas giants (Jupiter and Saturn), ice giants (Uranus and Neptune), and assorted …Continue reading”Special Science Teleclass: Astronomy”
Using the position of the Sun, you can tell what time it us by making one of these sundials. The Sun will cast a shadow onto a surface marked with the hours, and the time-telling gnomon edge will align with the proper time. In general, sundials are susceptible to different kinds of errors. If the …Continue reading”Sundial”
Phases of the Moon
The Moon appears to change in the sky. One moment it’s a big white circle, and next week it’s shaped like a sideways bike helmet. There’s even a day where it disappears altogether. So what gives? The Sun illuminates half of the Moon all the time. Imagine shining a flashlight on a beach ball. The …Continue reading”Phases of the Moon”
Star & Planet Trails
These are a set of videos made using planetarium software to help you see how the stars and planets move over the course of months and years. See what you think and tell us what you learned by writing your comments in the box below. What’s odd about these star trails? You can really feel …Continue reading”Star & Planet Trails”
Star Charting
If you want to get from New York to Los Angeles by car, you’d pull out a map. If you want to find the nearest gas station, you’d pull out a smaller map. What if you wanted to find our nearest neighbor outside our solar system? A star chart is a map of the night …Continue reading”Star Charting”
Pinhole Solar Projector
You might be curious about how to observe the sun safely without losing your eyeballs. There are many different ways to observe the sun without damaging your eyesight. In fact, the quickest and simplest way to do this is to build a super-easy pinhole camera that projects an image of the sun onto an index …Continue reading”Pinhole Solar Projector”