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Lesson Title: Finding Earth-Like Planets
April 4, 2012

Unit: Earth and Space Science - Planetology

Grade Levels: 7-9

Connection To Curriculum: Earth Science and Astronomy

Teacher Prep Time: 2 hours

Complexity Moderate



Detecting Planet Transits:
Overhead LCD projector or large LCD display
Prepared key concept sheet from CD-ROM file
One lamp socket (tabletop)
One extension cord
A 25-watt incandescent light bulb
One round, opaque plastic bead (about 16 mm in diameter)
Count Your Lucky Stars
Page 58 from NASA's SciFiles Activity, The Case of the Galactic Vacation (Note: Although this activity is for grades 3-5, the background in students' understanding the vastness of the amount of stars in the universe can easily be realized).
Paint by Numbers
NASA's Space-Based Astronomy teacher guide, pages 84-87

This lesson combines activities used to provide students with an understanding on how extra-solar and Earth-like planets are detected.

Students will:
• Detect a slight flicker when a small ball passes in front of a light bulb illustrating how astronomers detect extra-solar planets as they pass in front of stars.
• Simulate how light collected from a space object converts into binary data and reconverts into an image of the object.

First page of Finding Earth-Like Planets

Lesson Guide
Finding Earth-Like Planets Lesson
[250KB PDF file]



Professional Development Training Module for This Lesson

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› Finding Earth-Like Planets training module  →
Note: Module may take a few minutes to load.

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› Planet Transit training module  →
Note: Module may take a few minutes to load.

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› Help me! I can't access the training module.

Lesson Activities and Sequence

  1. Detecting Planet Transits
    This lesson incorporates activities that help students understand how astronomers can detect extra-solar planets by noting dimness in the total light output of a star by using a light bulb from a table lamp and a small bead attached to a string. A student moves the ball on a string in front of the light, which is known by astronomers as a "transit." Other students should be able to detect a "flicker" or slight dimness of the total light output from the light bulb.
  2. Count Your Lucky Stars
    Students will readily understand that the number of stars in the galaxy is truly astronomical, not to mention the total number of stars in the universe.
  3. Paint by Numbers
    The Kepler mission's goal is to detect Earth-like planets within our galaxy and acquire images of planetary transits by possible Earth-like planets around stars. Students will use printed grids to demonstrate how digital imagery is deciphered.

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards, NSTA
Earth and Space Science
• Origin and evolution of the earth system.
• Earth in the solar system.

History and Nature of Science
• Science as a human endeavor.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, NCTM
Expressions and Equations
• Understand the connections between proportional relationships, lines and linear equations.

Statistics and Probability
• Investigate patterns of association in bivariate data.
• Use random sampling to draw inferences about population.

ISTE NETS and Performance Indicators for Students, ISTE
Creativity and Innovation
• Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products or processes.

Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making
• Use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions.


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Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator