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Distance, Scales and Units

Each activity or resource is labeled by access mode:

Requires computer access
Requires downloading from the Web
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Main Topics & Concepts
Sizes of Solar System
Distances to Stars and Galaxies
Units for Different Size Scales
This topic touches on California State Standards for Earth Science:  8th grade 4c, 9th grade 1d.
Science Probe Text
Science Probe I 14.3, Distances to Stars. 

Activity Access Description
Science Probe I:
Activity 13B

A Map of the Solar System
book Students construct a map of the solar system, by cutting out circles of varying diameters to represent the different planets and pasting them on paper tape at the appropriate distance from the Sun.

Activities & Lessons
Activity Access Description
Toilet Paper Solar System:

Elizabeth Roettger
webpaper A classic activity by the late Gerald Mallon is redone by Elizabeth Roettger. Students use rolls of toilet paper to measure of the scale of the solar system. An alternative to Science Probe I activity 13B.
Solar System Demo
Center for Particle Astrophysics
webpaper The goal is to give the students an idea of the size and scale of the solar system and of the planets. Students should know solar system basics and what a scale model is. The activity has two parts -- one that demonstrates the distance scale of the solar system, and one that demonstrates the size scale of the planets. 
Powers of Ten
Ordering the video of the original Eames film ($39.95)
web$$ The classic video, which starts on the Golden Gate Park Music Concourse, a spot familiar to many SF students.
Powers of Ten
Florida State University
web This Java applet starts in the Milky Way, zooms into an oak tree, and on into the subatomic world. Users can halt the applet and proceed one frame at a time in either direction.
Powers of Ten Quiz
Scales Quiz
Thomas B. Arny's Explorations site
web The on-line quiz with 8 problems can be used to test knowledge of scientific notation. There is also a 2-problem section on comparing distance scales.
Stellar Travel Times:

web Students learn to understand the concept of a light year by calculating distances to the stars in other units, such as bike years, car years, and Space Shuttle years. Part of the SETI Institute's Life in the Universe curriculum.

*Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Ordering info $$

**Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

Resources Access Description
Astronomical Distances

U. of MD

web This program lets you put in a speed (up to light speed) and calculates the travel times to a number of destinations. Effective demonstartion of scale.
Working with Equations

U. of MD

web Program challenges the user to determine how much some factor changes, given a change in one variable. Uses equations for gravitational acceleration,
Teacher's Guide to the Universe

sections 2-12


web Click to the Table of contents to find background and activities on astronomical scale and the size of the Universe. As described, activities on distance scales, time, and density could be done fairly quickly. The structure of presentation is left to the teacher. May be better for the most motivated students.
Quarks to Quasars:
Powers of Ten

B.A. Bryson

web A frame-by-frame version of this classic visual essay on the range of scales in the universe, better for slower connections. Each frame has a fair amount of supporting text. Not as dramatic as the Java version, but amenable to creating an exercise or worksheet.
 The Cosmic Distance Scale


web  A self-tutorial site based on the distances to various types of objects: solar system, stars, the galaxy, etc. Excellent background on astronomical methods of measuring distance. Good material for anyone willing to write a work sheet of "higher thinking" questions.

***Microwave Anisotropy Probe

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