Discovering Alien Worlds

Link to the demonstrator: in English

Metadata:

Age: 14-18

Duration: 3 hours

Equipment: PC with internet connection, light sensor and basic lab equipment

Contact details

Author: Dr. Rosa Doran (NUCLIO)
Contact: info[at]frontiers-project[dot]eu

Overview

This demonstrator introduces the concept of an exoplanet and how they have been discovered in our universe. Students are introduced to the transit method of exoplanet detection.  Real images will be used to look for changes in the starlight that might result due to the motion of an orbiting exoplanet. Students will be given real light images and learn how to use a specific image software to perform photometry and to analyse the graphs. The analysis of the light curve will allow students to estimate the rotational period of the exoplanet and its diameter. Students can present their work to the class and discuss how they compare with the most accurate results that astronomers have.

 

Learning outcomes:

  1. Teach students about the discovery of exoplanets
  2. Allow students to understand the science and methodology behind the discovery of alien worlds.
  3. Introduce basic concepts of Astronomy and Image Processing

 

Prior knowledge:

  • Basic Astronomy knowledge of a star and planet system

 

Concepts introduced:

 

  • Exoplanets
  • Luminosity
  • Graphing

 

Learning intentions:

By the end of this descriptor, students should be able to:

  • Define an exoplanet
  • Explain the transit method
  • Describe a method to collect luminosity data
  • Examine images using the salsa J software
  • Form conclusions about a planet from a light graph

 

Key activities:

  1. Videos to engage – possible edpuzzle 
  2. Explaining the light curve
  3. Practical formation of a light curve
  4. Salsa J – examination of 3 stars
  5. Analysis and explanation – activity handout possibly
  6. Final report

 

Questions:

By the end of this descriptor, students should be able to answer the following: 

  1. Write a couple of sentences describing what you learned about exoplanets (what they are, why do we want to find them, etc.).
  2. It is difficult to observe exoplanets. Why? Can you describe how to detect an exoplanet using the light curve of a star?
  3. Which parameters can we get from the analyses of the light curve?
  4. How do we know it is a transiting planet?

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