Feature

Galactic Doom
06.08.10
 
Screenshot of the Galactic Doom game

The Galactic Doom game is designed for middle and high school students. It meets national education standards. Image Credit: NASA

Click for larger image

What do we know about the black hole at the center of the Milky Way? Is the black hole billions of times more massive than the sun, gobbling up galactic material and then spewing it out at the speed of light? Or is it energy-starved and "merely" a few million times more massive than the sun?

More simply put, is the Milky Way an "active" or "inactive" galaxy?

This question is the ultimate one faced by players of "Galactic Doom," which is narrated by a space creature named Alkina. Galactic Doom is the newest in a series of interactive Web games for middle and high school students. Each game in the "Space Mysteries" series is aligned to national science education standards and accompanied by background information for teachers.

Galactic Doom includes a matching game and a classification activity that help players learn about the different shapes of galaxies (spiral, elliptical and irregular) and the different wavelengths at which they can be viewed (infrared, visible and X-ray). Images used in the game come from telescopes such as NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Earlier games in the Space Mysteries series include:
  • Alien Bandstand -- A mysterious musical signal from space triggers an all-out investigation of whether life exists beyond Earth. Students learn about the electromagnetic spectrum and the properties of waves as they view various space phenomena through X-ray, optical and radio telescopes.


  • Live! From 2-Alpha -- A reporter named Parnell wonders if his eyes are playing tricks on him as he broadcasts live from the edge of space. Do some stars move while others don’t? Or maybe it's a problem with his telescope? In helping Parnell sort things out, students learn about forces and motion, the origin and evolution of the universe, and the interaction of energy and matter.


  • Star Market -- A group of companies is buying up stars at an alarming rate -- one that could bring down the entire "star market." As students figure out what's going on and why the companies seem to be purchasing certain kinds of stars, they learn about different types of stars and their properties and gain experience reading graphs and sorting data.


  • Solar Supernova -- Professor Starzapoppin is worried the sun might explode as a supernova and wipe out Earth. Should he be concerned? Students help the professor investigate by plotting the mass, luminosity and lifetime of different stars. They also learn about the relationship between a star's mass and its color, and whether or how fast stars of different colors blow up.
  • Space Mysteries was developed by NASA's education and public outreach group at Sonoma State University and funded by the NASA LEARNERS program and NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope mission.

    View site:
    http://mystery.sonoma.edu/index.html
     
     
    Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies