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Lesson Title: Vegetable Light Curves
May 11, 2012

Unit: Earth and Space Science - Year of the Solar System

Grade Levels: 7-9

Connection To Curriculum: Science

Teacher Prep Time: 2 hours

Lesson Time Needed: 1.5 hours

Complexity Moderate

Keywords: asteroid belt, solar system, meteorites, small bodies, solar system formation, Dawn mission, rotation, albedo, reflectivity

Materials:

For each team of three:
Two potatoes (one spherical and one elongated)
An illumination system - 40-watt lamp and a dark background
An assemble potato-rotating system
Sharpened dowel sticks to mount the potatoes
Activity Sheet, "Vegetable Light Curve"
A watch with a second hand
Computer/Internet access and projector
 

Description
In this activity, students will observe the surface of rotating potatoes to help them understand how astronomers can sometimes determine the shape of asteroids from variations in reflective brightness.

Objectives
Students will:
• Explore the correlation between the shape of a potato and variations in its reflective brightness.
• Investigate how astronomers can determine the shape of an asteroid from variations in its brightness.
• Design a simple device to rotate a potato on a stand.


First page of Vegetable Light Curves

Lesson Guide
Vegetable Light Curves Lesson
[99KB PDF file]

 

 

Professional Development Training Module for This Lesson

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Lesson Activities and Sequence
Vegetable Light Curves
Students will observe the surface of rotating potatoes to help them understand how astronomers can sometimes determine the shape of asteroids from variations in reflective brightness.

Keywords: asteroid belt, solar system, meteorites, small bodies, solar system formation, Dawn mission, rotation, albedo, reflectivity

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards, NSTA
Science as Inquiry
• An appreciation of "how we know" what we know in science.
• Understanding of the nature of science.

Physical Science
• Motion and forces.
• Properties and changes of properties in matter.

Earth and Space Science
• Earth in the solar system.
 

 

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