The EUVE Orbit
Del Spicer and Leslie Dietiker
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.
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
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
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
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
The students are expected to have the following skills or knowledge:
- map reading
- latitude and longitude knowledge
- skills for plotting a graph
For a lesson of this nature more appropriate for elementary school
students, please refer
What's Your Sign? The Science Behind the Zodiac by Beth Napier
For more information about this lesson plan:
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