September 12, 2011

Big Sky Studies and the Good Fortune of a Dying Star

We're in the middle of our space studies.  It seems like the universe is working in our favor with the timing of this unit.  My dad left us a mega nice telescope when he visited and now it turns out that they've found the a Super Nova way close to the earth (and by way close I mean like 20 million light years away rather than the usual billion light years.  It's all relative.) and they discovered it earlier than any other in modern history so we have a nice long window in which to get perfect viewing weather.  We're still waiting for a cloudless night, by the way.  Tomorrow night is supposed to be prime viewing, but it's not looking so good weather wise.  :(

What more could you ask for during a space study unit?  Right?  One super close dying star and the gift of a telescope with which to take a gander at it! 

Thus far in our studies, we've explored the phases of the moon by acting out the earth, moon, sun relationship with balls and flashlights.  You know the drill, right?  We made a chart of the moon phases with oreo cookies.  That really worked for Haven.  Seriously, every time we go outside he tells me what phase the moon is in (correctly, too!) and then what phase is on the way!  Can't ask for more than that.

We've made our own star charts for some of the major constellations and read the ancient myths that go along with them.  Those made for some gorgeous notebook pages.  I feel all happy and Waldrofian when I look at those pages.  Ahhh...

Hannah Jane read a short story about little robotic aliens the size of paper clips that landed in a little boy's yard and then made her own notebook page with what she imagines an alien encounter would be like.  I was a little disappointed that even after a story with different looking aliens, she went with the green man with giant black eyes thing.  Come on!  Can't we be more creative than that?  Apparently not.

Today we calculated Hannah Jane's weight on every planet using a simple equation and a chart with all the gravitational constants for each planet.  Tomorrow we'll likely use a similar formula to decide how old she would be on each planet based on their length of their orbit around the sun.

 Hopefully tomorrow night we can stay up late and have a little farewell party for Super Nova PTF 11kly.  I suppose if it's still cloudy I'll cry...and then we'll look at images online.  They got emergency clearance to use Hubble to look at the super nova because it was just such an unusual find, so there should be some good images to look at.  I'm serious about the crying.  I will totally sob and curse the skies if I own a super scope and there's a dying star and I don't get to take full advantage of it.  This is Utah, for crying out loud!  We're supposed to have great skies for this sort of thing.  And I missed the solstice lunar eclipse last winter due to cloud cover so the way I figure it, the universe owes me one.  Hear that universe???  You owe me big time and I'm ready to cash in!

After the fun (or lack thereof) of the dying star, once a week for a few months we will go out and track the changing of the position of the moon each evening even though we will move on to other science studies. In college, when Dr. Lee had us follow the moon over the course of a month, we drew the local skyline and then every few days went out and sketched where the moon was in relation to local landmarks.  I'm thinking we haven't acquired that level of sophistication in our sketching skills, so we'll likely take a series of photographs from a marked point in the yard and then compare them at the end of the unit. 

Hopefully poor Hunter is feeling better in time for the dying star party tomorrow.  He's been throwing up all day (in case you were wondering why he's obviously absent from the fun).  He listened to the alien story as Hannah Jane read it aloud in the car on the way to take Haven to speech.  He's memorized the space vocabulary from his sick bed.  Poor, poor, pitiful Roo. 

1 comment:

  1. We haven't had very much luck looking at the the dying star either. Cloudy nights, and then last night the full moon interfered, at least for our little ones. One of these days...


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