Rice University

Space Science for Teachers

Dr. Patricia Reiff
Offers the graduate course for teachers at Rice to learn to use astronomical and earth science equipment and software that can be used in the classroom. Teachers are exposed to sophisticated astronomical equipment and how to use data from the local network for space and earth science

Class Notes:

Backyard Astronomy

In the city, only the brightest (1st and 2nd magnitude) objects can be seen. The only "plus" to this situation is that the bright constellations and asterisms (star groups that aren't official constellations) are quite easy to see in the Sky tonight! Star gazing was complimented with visits to Moon's Orbit and the Moon's Phases , earth's orbit, planetary motion. in the planetarium for the class to see. We used the software called Space Update to reinforce the information from class and HMNS.

NASA Photo Techniques

Sometimes you need the big eye in the sky.
Earth from Space

From Darker Skies
Use a better star chart such as is published each month in Astronomy or information of Your Sky . The Night Sky planishere from Sky and Telescope is Dr. Reiff's favorite. It has dials so that you can find you sky anytime of the night, and its paper cover means that you can plot onto it the trajectories of comets, etc. At a dark sky location, you see nebulae that were lost in the bright sky - look for the Great Nebula in Orion, the Andromeda Galaxy, moon and other planets. "Pro" amateurs find all the"Messier Objects" - a list of fuzzy objects that might be confused with comets (Messier was an avid comet-hunter) or just take your boniculars and sweep the Milky Way, especially near the "Teapot" (Sagittarius)

Optical Aids
Use7X50 Binoculars means the (7) magnification and the (50) width. Binoculars with larger front lenses gather more light which allows fainter objects to be observed. After purchasing the new binoculars, take them outside to look at a star, one eye at a time and then both together. Make sure they are not bird watching binoculars. If you have trouble holding the binoculars steady, try placing the binoculars onto a tripod. The proper telescope will allow you to observe details in planets, nebulae and clusters. Since most astronomical objects are faint, the telescope must gather enough light and must not excessively spread out the light with high magnification. Guidelines for purchasing a telescope: buy quality, a steady mount, aperture with a diameter of 4 inches (100mm) or more. Reflectors are usually less expensive for the amount of aperture. Refractor usually give a finer quality image. Also, High power(Magnification), kind of Mount, eyepieces and the moment of truth. Are you truly interested in Stargazing? JOIN A GROUP: Houston Astronomical Society or Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society.

Solar Observations
The first information we learn about the sun is to never look directly at it! Filters sometimes crack and can cause eye damage. Visit George Observatory at Brazos Bend State Park and view the sun using their special solar observation instruments. This size telescope will also allow you to see deeper into space. Another place to view the sun is Prairie View A & M. Astronomers use both of these sites to collect solar data. The sun is in solar max making observation critical for data.

Solar Surface

The solar surface appears different depending upon the layer the observer wants to study. Different wavelengths penetrate various layers of the surface which give the photos a different appearance. The types of photos are: broad-wavelength visible light, H-Alpha light, X-Ray light and The White-Light corona. Borad-wavelength visible light, Hydrogen Alpha light and X-Ray and Ultra Violet light are all emitted at varying wavelengths of energy. Each feature on the solar suface is also emitting at different wavelengths causing the sun's surface to appear different depending upon the filter used. The corona photographs illustrate how the filters block other energy levels of light except for the one being studied Dr. Reginald Dufour and Dr. Pat Reiff describe the solar surface more in depth than an ordinary textbook. Sunspots originate in the photoshere and migrate toward the equator. This is caused by the greater rotational speed in the interior of the sun. The solar cycle can be viewed by watching the occurrence of sunspots. The number of sunspots change over a period of 11 years but a complete solar cycle would take approximately 22 years which is due to the change in polarity every 11 years at the poles. Filaments, and Plages and flares can been seen in the same area as the sunspots. Granulation of the photosphere is also evident when viewing the solar surface. Auroras are formed from solar wind reacting with the earth's atmosphere. Mass ejections of solar material can cause our communication to be interrupted around the world.


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Judy Lee

These pages authored and maintained by Judy Lee.
Revised: September 09, 2001 . Copyright 1998
CRPC GirlTECH. All rights reserved.