A series of projects covering the solar system, asteroids, stars, galaxies, and the universe. The data and images of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey are used where possible to help illustrate the basic ideas of astronomy. 

With Thanks to Sloan Digital Sky Survey Educational and Public Outreach Team for allowing their work to be transferred to the EIS academy.

three people with Sloan Plate

Project Name: How do We Know What the Solar System Looks Like?
Author: Kathy Gustavson with permission from the Education Team for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
Age Level: High School (14+), University
Educational Standards: Earth and Space Science

Short Description: Look at the picture. It's a beautiful view of the Solar System, created by artists at NASA. You have probably seen pictures like it many times before. You know that the Sun is in the middle and that the Earth is the third planet.

But have you ever wondered how we got that picture? Except for a few space probes, we've always stayed on or near the surface of the Earth. Even astronauts have never made it beyond the moon. Our model of how the Solar System looks was created entirely from our observations on Earth.

In this Project, you will learn how we know what the Solar System looks like, and how the Earth fits in to the Solar System. The project is divided into three main lessons. Coordinate Systems, Mapping the Solar System, and Earth, Sun, and Seasons.



Scavenger Hunt

Project Name: Scavenger Hunt in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Base
Author: Kathy Gustavson with permission from the Education Team for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
Age Level: High School (14+), University
Educational Standards: Earth and Space Science

Short Description: 

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has seen many kinds of objects in the sky: stars, galaxies, quasars, asteroids, comets and meteors. In this scavenger hunt, you will look for a list of these different types of objects, and learn how to look through the SkyServer database to go on a scavenger hunt through the sky!

Before you start, you should learn a little about the objects you will see .Enter this project to start your learning!


Project Name: The Universe
Author: Kathy Gustavson with permission from the Education Team for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
Age Level: High School (14+), University
Educational Standards: Earth and Space Science

Short Description: 

How Big is the Universe? How do we know? This project will take you on a journey to find out what we know about the size of the observable universe.



The Sloan Digital Sky Survey spends most of its time looking at galaxies and quasars very far from Earth. However, SDSS also sees many things in our own cosmic backyard. In addition to the occasional comet or meteor, Data Release 14 contains 10,000 asteroids! In this lesson you will learn what asteroids are, and how to find them in SDSS images.

When astronomers look through their telescopes, they see billions of stars. How do they make sense of all of them?


Classification lies at the foundation of nearly every science. Scientists develop classification systems based on the patterns they see. For example:

  • Biologists classify plants and animals into groups based on their structure
  • Geologists classify rocks and minerals by their origins
  • Chemists classify compounds by what elements they contain

Astronomers are no different. We classify planets by their composition (rocky planets or gas giants), galaxies by their shape (spiral, elliptical or irregular), and stars by their spectra.

Classifying star spectra was a key step for astronomers in discovering how stars work. Thus, in astronomy as well as other sciences, the seemingly ordinary step of classifying things eventually yields critical insights into our world.

Before You Start

To do the activities in this project, you will need to understand how spectra are formed, the relationship between the shape of a star's thermal spectrum and the star's temperature, and what absorption lines are.

If you need a refresher, you may want to read the pages on Continuous Spectra and Discrete Spectra at Nick Strobel's Astronomy Notes before beginning.

Choose one of the following activities to get started. You can do them all in order, or one at a time:

 


Look up on a clear night, far away from city lights, and you will see thousands of stars. If you look closer, you might notice that the stars shine with an amazing variety of colors. Some glow dull red, some blue, some yellow like the sun, and some bright white. The picture to the right shows three stars as seen by the SDSS.


But what exactly is color? Why do stars have different colors? And what can you learn by studying the colors of stars, galaxies, and other objects?

Click Next to find out.


At the turn of the 20th Century, a debate was raging in astronomy about faint, fuzzy objects called "nebulae." Some astronomers thought nebulae were small clusters of stars in our own galaxy. Others saw some of them as giant, distant collections of stars, some larger than the Milky Way itself.


Finally, in 1924, American astronomer Edwin Hubble measured the distance to what was then called the Andromeda Nebula. He found it to lie over 2 million light-years from Earth. It was the first object to be recognized as another galaxy.

Hubble's discovery changed our view of the universe. The already vast distances between stars were dwarfed by the incredible distances between galaxies. The universe was suddenly a much larger place than anyone had ever imagined.

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has found more than 8 million galaxies so far. In this project, you will look at some of them to learn about different types of galaxies