An Introduction...

Concept:

This lesson plan implements elements of modern astrophysics in math classes for high school students. Information obtained from the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE) NASA Satellite may be used as an application for learning about periodic functions such as sine and cosine in algebra or geometry classes.

Theme

The students will study the nature of a satellite's orbit around the Earth. An orbit is the path or trajectory traveled by one object with respect to another and, in our case, it describes the EUVE satellite's revolution about the Earth. Students will see the relationship between such an orbit and the position of the EUVE satellite directly above geographical points on the Earth. Students will use this lesson plan to obtain data directly from the EUVE satellite, in the form of the position of the EUVE above the Earth as a function of time. Students will then be able to graph the position of the EUVE satellite on a map of the world.

The EUVE satellite offers a wonderful opportunity for students to see a real application of math, to ask questions about how satellites stay in orbit and to see how mathematics provides a tool for analyzing information about space astrophysics satellite missions.

Objectives:

This lesson has several objectives:

• To discuss the shape of the EUVE satellite's orbital path when projected onto a planisphere map of the world
• To introduce the notion of periodic functions (i.e. to have students predict when the satellite will be over certain geographical spots)
• To refresh basic concepts of geography (specifically: Equator, latitude and longitude)
• To discuss some properties of electromagnetic radiation and the position of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths on the entire spectrum
• To show students how to use a globe in order to pinpoint the position of the satellite projected against specific geographical areas
• To calculate periods and amplitudes of sine/cosine functions (optional segment for advanced math courses involving trigonometry)

This lesson is appropriate for 9th or 10th graders in introductory math classes or geometry. However, it may be taught in advanced math classes for 11th and 12th graders, with emphasis on trigonometric functions and their graph representations

Prerequisites:

The students are expected to have the following skills or knowledge:

• latitude and longitude knowledge
• skills for plotting a graph

For a lesson of this nature more appropriate for elementary school students, please refer to:
What's Your Sign? The Science Behind the Zodiac
by Beth Napier