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Each activity or resource is labeled by access mode:

Requires computer access
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Main Topics & Concepts
  • The Big Bang theory is most widely accepted idea of how the universe began
  • This theory is supported by evidence from the cosmic microwave background.
  • Once energy and matter separate, ight elements, stars, and galaxies form.
  • The Universe continues to expand, but its (longterm!) future is uncertain.
This topic applies to California state standards 2c in 9th grade Earth Science. 

Science Probe Text

Science Probe I § 16.3 Possible Origins of the Universe

Activity Access Description
S P I: Activity 15B Scaling the Universe
Students use the thickness of a sheet of paper to represent 1 light year in modeling distances of different scales in the universe.
S P I: Activity 16B
A Model of an Expanding Universe
 Students observe changes in position of dots on the surface of an expanding balloon, to see how all objects move away from each other as the universe exands.

Activities & Lessons
Activity Access Description
Cosmic Calendar:
web Students learn to scale the history of the universe since the big bang to a one-year calendar, noting where significant events (such as the formation of the Earth or the rise of humans) would fall in that year. The value added is the exercise in computing proportions and ratios, in the "Do the Math" page.

More Universe at Your Fingertips

How Many Objects Are There? Counting Galaxies Using the Hubble Deep Field.


book Students use parts of the Hubble deep field to calculate the number of galaxies Hubble could see in the entire universe.
Hubble Deep Field Academy:

Galactic Guide

Students use knowledge from previous activities to find distances to several galaxies. Teachers also use DFA Teaching Tips page.

Universe at Your Fingertips

H-6 Visualizing the Expansion of Space


book Using transparencies with dots representing galaxy clusters at two different eras of the universe's history, students observe and measure movement of clusters away from particular locations.  Student graph their data, compute a slope, and relate the slope to the age of the universe.

Universe at Your Fingertips

H-5 The Expanding Universe


Students investigate wave behavior and the Doppler shift, and plot recession speeds of galaxies to illustrate Hubble's Law.
Teacher's Guide to the Universe


web Click to the Table of contents to find activities on the size, shape, and expansion of the Universe. Many are paper and pencil activities, and the structure of presentation is left to the teacher. May be better for the most motivated students.
Desktop Stars: Part 3 The Expanding Universe  

Center for Particle Astrophysics

 Students explore the Doppler effect, which describes the change in wavelength of light emitted by a moving source. They use Doppler analysis to find the speed of a distant galaxy, as evidence that such galaxies are moving away from Earth. They use the distance and red shift calculated to assign an approximate age to the universe.
Hidden Lives of Galaxies: Activity 6a

Evidence for Hidden Mass

Imagine the Universe

webbookpaper Booklet available online as HTML or PDF, with activities, standards alignment and  background. Students infer evidence of unseen matter from rotation speeds of different parts of a galaxy. Teacher's background sections for this activity: A Hidden Objects, B Hidden Mass.
Hidden Lives of Galaxies: Activity 7

Dark Matter Possibilities

Imagine the Universe

  webbookpaper See the entry above for access to this learning/activity booklet from NASA. Students organize opinions pro and con for different models of dark matter. Background: section C Possibilities for Dark Matter.

*Astronomical Society of the Pacific Ordering info $$


**Microwave Anisotropy Probe

Resources Access Description
Timeline of the Universe

NASA/Origins Education Forum

web A sysmposis of commonly accepted cosmology, in pages on The Big Bang, Element Formation in Stars, Planetary System Formation, Forming Earth-like Planets, Forming Jupiter-Like Planets, and The Chemistry of Life. This is for teachers or advanced students; many terms like Quark and antimatter are undefined.
Big Bang Cosmology

The Astronomy Cafe

web Monograph on the reigning theory of origins and links to several articles available on line. Includes an extensive FAQ (frequently asked questions, with answers) on cosmology.
Intorduction to the Cosmic Microwave Background

D. Scott and M. White

Introduces CMB as evidence of the Big Bang, with lots of links to related background pages around the Web. Access to a more complet FAQ, or list of "Frequently Asked Questions" and answers.
Introduction to Cosmology

NASA Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP)

Pages devoted to answering a number of basic questions, such as, What is the Big Bang?
How old is the universe?
How fast is the universe expanding? What is the cosmological constant? How did the chemical elements form?
Origin of the Light Elements


 Specifically about the primordial elements and their abundances.

See also some entries in Why do They Shine? under Stars and Stellar Evolution

Cosmos in a Computer

Cosmic Mystery Tour


 Site with movies of universe simulations, guided tours of cosmology. Mystery tour guides readers through an illustrated journey of the universe's creation and evolution. Vocabulary is linked to glossary and reference pages. Movies require QuickTime, Mpeg player and/or AIF soundfile player, such as QuickTime.
Dark Matter Mystery

Chandra X-ray Field Guide:

web Four short pages in easy English about the discovery of dark matter and what it might be. Better for students 
Cambridge Relativity

Cambridge Astrophysics

This site from the home of Steven Hawking's research is written for lay readers, and divides the material of the Big Bang, Galaxies and clusters into manageable segments.
Dark Matter Tutorial

Jon Dursi, Queen's University

web Five pages written in plain English, with some Java applets to illustrate how the gravitational effects of dark matter show up in what we can see. Very accessible conceptually, but reading level is fairly sophisticated. Good background material.