Radio Astronomy Unit
Fall 2004

The following describes ideas for a unit on Radio Astronomy.

Goal: Introduce students to Radio Astronomy with the Itty Bitty Demo

Objective 1. Discuss the concept of energy and our main energy source
Objective 2. Illustrate the Electromagnetic Spectrum
Objective 3. Compare the size of wavelengths used to define the spectrum with everyday objects.
Objective 4. Describe thermal emission and predict sources of thermal emission
Objective 5. Detect sources of thermal emission with the Itty Bitty

Overview Objective 1: ENERGY
Background information should include a discussion of what is energy, how do we use energy, get energy, what is our main source of energy. Energy allows us to live...drives photosynthesis in plants (they use sunlight energy to make food for themselves and humans/animals). We digest plants or meat from animals that ate plants to release that stored energy so we can grow and move and make repairs in our bodies. Can energy be stored in other things or given off by other things than the sun? What are different types or forms of energy?

Overview Objective 2: EMS
How do we get the energy? How does it move from the Sun to us, can we see it, how does it travel? Is it in particles or in waves? How do our TVs and radios work...
Demo: Describe wave action with a string. Discuss parts of the wave and show students a chart of the EMS.
What do they notice about the visible part of the spectrum? About the wavelengths for red and blue? Use "roygbiv" to remember the order of colors, and increasing wavelength.

Overview Objective 3: WAVELENGTHS
Measure a distance somewhere in the room or outside that would compare with one or two of the wavelengths on the spectrum. Predict other objects that would compare with the wavelengths of the different regions of the EMS.

Overview Objective 4: THERMAL EMMISION
What could cause this energy to travel in these waves? If energy is connected to something moving...what happens to temperature of things as they move? What happens to atoms in a solid, liquid and a gas? Is there another state of matter? (Plasma) What is the hottest thing you can identify? How does it give off energy? Will it make other objects nearby hot? Can you focus the energy of the sun to start a fire or heat things up? Look at the temperature of different parts of the sun and discuss what makes the sun a star?

Overview Objective 5: SUN
How would you detect energy from the sun? Students should experiment with the Itty Bitty to make predictions about what is happening? Do they recognize what it is? What have they seen it used for?

Note: Objective 5 may be used to start the lesson in discovery or inquiry learning method. Discuss and answer questions that came up during the session and predict other sources to test on the Itty Bitty.