Using Astronomy to Teach Physics

Some UATP Strategies

    ·  Develop physics problems that use astronomy

    o       Ghez orbits – Kepler’s laws => black hole

    o       Charbonneau – exoplanets: detection & inferences

    §         Doppler effect

    §         light curve

    §         51 Pegasi (Amato)

    o       Amato ­– 90 Antiope – double asteroid

    o       Rappoport  – neutron-optical star eclipsing binary

    o       distances by parallax – geometry

    §         corrections for Earth’s motion,

    §         Sun’s motion,

    §         Galaxy’s motion

    o       distances by standard candles – inverse square, extinction

    o       star formation

    o       nucleosynthesis


    ·  Develop guides for using materials on the web

    o       NASA Mission websites


    o       NASA education websites


    o       Project sites



    ·  Provide support material for topics 
    Take the table of contents of a standard physics text and suggest astronomy and space science material for each physics topic.

    o       conservation of momentum  --

    §         slingshot orbits

    §         rocketry

    ·        escape velocity

    ·        Hohmann trajectory – cons of energy

    ·        sling-shot

    ·        grand tours

    o       conservation of angular momentum

    §         Kepler’s laws

    §         neutron star spin up

    §         pulsar properties

    ·        Taylor-Hulse

    ·        msec

    o       spectroscopy

    §         composition of stars  -- atomic physics

    §         21 cm line and H – atomic physics

    §         Doppler shift – Hubble’s law

    §         gravitational redshift – general relativity

    §         magnetic fields –Zeeman effect

    ·        in stars

    ·        in space

    o       general relativity

    §         gravitational radiation

    ·        Taylor-Hulse

    ·        LIGO

    §         Shapiro measurements

    §         deflection of starlight by Sun

    §         gravitational redshift

    ·        Pound-Rebka

    ·        Mueller-Chu

    ·        GPS

    §         black holes

    o       plasmas

    §         solar wind

    §         effects on observations

    o       cosmic rays

    §         detection         

    §         nature – physical properties: composition, energy,

    §         behavior in Earth’s atmosphere and Earth’s magnetic field

    §         models of generation – electromagnetic

    o       neutrinos

    §         Solar neutrinos –

    ·        Davis experiment

    ·        SNO

    ·        Kamiokande

    §         supernova neutrinos

    ·        SN1987A

    ·        IceCube


    ·  Use technologies as contexts for teaching physics 
    Develop modules that explain the physics underlying modern astronomical and space science technologies.

    o       radio telescopy & long baseline interferometry

    o       optical telescopes

    §         large mirrors

    §         multi mirror telescopes

    §         adaptive optics

    o       x-ray telescopy – Chandra, ROSAT

    §         interactions of x-rays with matter – detectors  

    o       mm telescopy – Keck, Atacama

    §         IR detectors

    o       gamma-ray telescopy – Fermi and detection physics

    §         detectors

    §         Compton scattering

    §         synchrotron radiation

    §         free-free

    §         pair production and annihilation

    o       LIGO

    §         interferometry

    §         signal/noise

    o       IceCube

    §         astronomy and neutrinos

    §         detection

    ·        Davis expt

    ·        SNO

    ·        Grand Sasso

    ·        Kamiokande


    ·  Use themes from astronomy & space science
    Develop bodies of material, including textbooks, that select and present physics to explicate a significant theme

    o       physics & astronomy that will enable a student to understand various parts of New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2010)

    o       physics & astronomy needed to understand why we believe Earth is situated where we think it is in the Universe

    o       why we think stars are what they are and how they evolve

    o       modern version of Newton’s System of the World

    o       physics & astronomy of living in space

    §         NASA Space Settlements

    §         physics of the International Space Station

    §         physics of traveling to Mars

    o       observational cosmology

    §         CMB & Big Bang

    §         CMB fluctuations

    §         observations at large z

    §         connections to particle physics


    ·  Educational research

    o       for topics and themes what basic ideas are essential?

    o       what are the goals of the instruction?

    §         are the goals of physics instruction different from those of astronomy instruction?

    §         horizontal curriculum – what are the goals beyond the subject matter itself?

    §         bottom-up syllabus

    o       what works?

    §         presentation modes

    §         math levels

    o       possibilities of integrated design

    §         integration of PER and AER results with subject matter

    o       does the injection of astronomy into physics instruction lead to

    §         better understanding of the physics?

    §         better understanding of the astronomy?

    §         improved motivation of students?

    §         improved motivation of faculty?

    §         appreciation of the breadth of applicability of physics?