with Leigh Ann Yoder
"Stars Above, Earth Below"
Today Ranger Bob presented his last, and possibly most thrilling presentation called "Stars Above, Earth Below" (Note - Bob's presentation title is based on a book of the same name written by his friend, Tyler Nordgren)
Bob began by highlighting the benefits of a lifelong appreciation of the starts and familiar constellations. Some of his convincing arguments included learning about the past, exploring the future, igniting our curiosity and just being WOWED! Not to mention it is really cool to be able to point out a few stars and asterisms in the night sky.
Before teaching the students about celestial motion basics he gave definitions of a star, a constellation and an asterism. Be certain to discuss these three terms with your students. I am almost positive they can teach you something you were not aware of. Hint - the Big Dipper is NOT a constellation.
Throughout his presentation Bob told us tidbits of myths and legends surrounding the constellations and asterisms. He encouraged all the students to look up some of these great stories. They might want to begin with the asterisms: Leo, Gemini, and Andromeda. He also pointed out the word origin of many stars, asterisms and constellations; demonstrating how they are connected. I was surprised to learn that many of the names are based on Arabic words. I'm sure all the students would agree that Ranger Bob had us captivated with his own storytelling skills and incredible knowledge base.
Mapping the Stars
He showed a map of the 88 constellations and then began to teach us how to read the night sky. Students learned how to locate three anchor asterisms: the Big Dipper, the Summer Triangle, and Orion. Using just these three asterisms they can locate many, many more asterisms, constellations and stars. Not only did students learn to map the sky, they also gained an understanding of how the night sky changes in the Northern Hemisphere throughout the year. They even understand a bit of what is going on in the Southern Hemisphere.
Ranger Bob pressed on and taught us about apparent and absolute brightness. He explained that our perception of the brightness of a star does not indicate its actual distance from us. In other words, looking at the Big Dipper it would appear that each of the stars are at the same distance from Earth, but this certainly is not the case. He further explained how scientists are able to use a spectrometer to determine star distance.
He presented the class on behalf of himself and the New Jersey Astronomical Association with a professional image of the Andromeda Galaxy taken at the Voorhees State Park. We are genuinely grateful for this spectacular gift. I do hope the Mosaic students will visit the NJAA at Voorhees and continue their astronomical learning.
We ran out of time, so the students took home the supplies to make their own planisphere (star-finder) which they can use in their backyard with the naked eye, binoculars or, if they are lucky, a telescope.
Students can download apps that will aid in their exploration. These apps will provide a map of the night sky from their own backyard at any given date and time! Make certain to check out http://www.celestron.com/support/celestron-skyportal and http://stellarium.org
Final Notes of Thanks!
Parents, I want you to know how proud I was of our middle school students today. Amazingly they sat for the full 90-minutes while Ranger Bob lectured. They did not fidget or speak out of turn. They asked intelligent questions, gave thoughtful answers, showed respect at all times, and remained fully engaged. I know this is a difficult task for any school-aged child, but ours certainly shined today!
Last, I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude to Ranger Bob. He made our Astronomy class a pure success this semester. Having someone with a true passion is contagious and I am hoping that our students will be inspired to follow their own dreams and interests. Bob is a role model of what one person can accomplish when they are lead by their own curiosity and genuine interest. Please make certain your students complete the one requested assignment by Ranger Bob as their own personal thank you.
Also, from Ranger Bob: a particularly timely page and podcast in Sky and Telescope Magazine: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/january-2015-stargazing-podcast-12302014/?et_mid=712911&rid=246751426
ECA Chapter 14
Let's Visit the Planets Activity ECA pg. 170-171
Study for Final Game Show
Assemble planisphere (handed out by Ranger Bob)
Answer this question for Ranger Bob and send me your answer by Friday:
Will you continue to explore astronomy? If so, what are you most interested in and how do you plan to continue your exploration?
JK Chapter 9 & 10
NB pg. 153,154,155,158,160,161