Sunday, May 20, 2012

Solar Eclipse May 20,2012

We haven't been able to see a good solar eclipse for many years in central Arizona.  Today's solar eclipse was fantastic!  An even better spot would have been the Grand Canyon.  Grand indeed!  Unfortunately, I couldn't quite get up there in time, as it is approximately four hours away. 

Of course you never want to look at an eclipse directly.  Unless you have the correct solar filters, your best bet would be use an indirect means of observing.  There are many ways to do this.  The simplest way to observe a solar eclipse would be to make a pinhole through some cardboard and allow the sunlight to pass through to hole to a paper.  This works but makes a very small image.  For today's eclipse we rigged a pair of astronomical binoculars by allowing the sunlight to pass through the large end and projected it on a piece of white paper.  We could even see sunspots using this method. Here are some pictures of what we could see from the Phoenix, Arizona area:

My favorite way of observing an eclipse does not require any equipment.  All you have to do is look around you.  As light gets filtered through tree leaves, blinds in your home, and other small pinpoints of light, crescents appear around you.  This is an actual image of the eclipse, similar to the way the pinhole viewer works.  Here is an example on my neighbor's house where the sun's crescent appeared everywhere:

The blinds in my house were also allowing just the right amount of light to allow multiple little eclipses on the wall.
I hope you had the opportunity to be in the right location to see this fantastic event.  The next one in my area is not until 2023.  I am sure I will out observing it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Two Great Space Science Lessons

Here are two fabulous astronomy lessons that I do with my 6th and 7th graders.  The first is an ordering activity called Cosmic Survey: What are your ideas about the universe?  This is a lesson I start out with when I begin teaching astronomy.  I comes with pictures of different objects in the universe and asks students to put them in order from smallest to largest, closest to the earth to farthest away, and youngest to oldest.  It is a wonderful beginning activity.  Here is a picture of one of my groups looking at the different pictures:

This activity can be found at this address:

Another great activity for beginning students is a lesson that incorporates plotting about 100 stars using brightness and temperature of the star.  This lesson also has some questions that go along with the graph and a couple of articles about what a star is, as well as, information on habitable zones around stars.  Here is a picture of one of my students plotting a star:

This is another great, hands-on lesson that can be found here:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Three Day Teacher Appreciation Sale

Starting on May 6th and continuing through the 8th is the teacher appreciation sale on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Many sellers will have their stores on sale for the three days.  You can also take another 20% off with the above code of TAD12 at checkout.  This is one of our best sales of the year so don't miss out. My own store will have every item reduced!  I like to pick up some things for the next school year during this time.  Happy shopping!
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