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Measuring the Universe

In this component of the curriculum, students are introduced to basic concepts of astronomy and what kinds of questions astronomers try to answer.  To proceed further, students need to begin using a few of the necessary tools for considering astronomical quantities. The fundamental things physicists measure are distance, mass, and time. In astronomy applications, all three of these quantities may have scales and units that are unfamiliar to students. There is also a set of scale and orientation activities in the Solar System section.

This section also lays some important groundwork for any quantitative activities by introducing the method of triangulation, and use of parallax, used to measure some astronomical distances. Principles of measuring large distances and of inferring the luminosity of distant objects are the starting points of astronomy.  Educators who wish to conduct a more qualitative introduction of the subject may wish to use only the first section (Distance, Scales and Units).