program objectives and outline.
Informed stargazing, related lore, and modern astronomical discoveries.
In this program we observe star patterns and the movement of the stars, then make a model to explain those phenomena. To the constellation observations we add associated lore or mythologies. Then we study astronomical phenomena within those constellations that we have come to understand using modern instruments.
Personal interpretation of specific constellations into artistic tile.
Participants will fuse
the above three components into their respective interpretations of select
constellations. They will express
this new understanding of the constellations by creating artistic tiles.
IDEAS start-up program to be taken to classroom.
Upon completion of the workshops, teachers will take the AFTAPP program back to their respective schools and integrate components of it into their regular teachings.
Relevance of observational astronomy in context of current events.
The value of understanding celestial events in modern times
is suggested. For the October 2001
workshops, examples of worldwide interest include the beginning and ending of
Ramadan, the position of the crescent moon and Venus just after Sept. 11, 2001,
and the alignment of planets in the western sky in Spring 2002.
Cycles theme in cosmology and in astronomy. Related
to the mythologies and ancient cosmologies of select constellations are
recurring notions of creation, life, and death.
A parallel understanding of stellar evolution will deal with the cycles
of star formation from clouds of gas and dust to a variety of stellar endings.
star patterns and the overall movement of the stars.
Find select star patterns, individual stars, and
From the urban site, light pollution typically mutes stars of the Little Dipper, leaving only Polaris and the end two stars visible in the pattern of a hockey stick.
Continuing from the Big Dipper through Polaris we come to the
constellation Cassiopeia, in the shape of the letter W.
In the winter sky, to the south is Orion the hunter with
three bright stars forming his belt. Variations
in star colors and star types can be observed in the red giant star Betelgeuse
and the blue giant star Rigel. Hanging from Orions belt is a sword which appears fuzzy,
the site of the Orion Nebula.
Following the three belt stars down and to the left leads us
to the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius. Associated with it is the lore of the Dogon, who described a
companion star nearby, when in fact the star Sirius is a binary star system,
whose discovery scientists inferred by the minute wobbling motion of the primary
star. Egyptians, too, saw great
significance in the star Sirius as its appearance before the sun presaged the
annual flooding of the Nile.
Following the three belt stars up and to the right leads us
to the reddish star Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus of the bull.
Going further leads us to the stars the Pleiades, or the seven sisters,
or the seven dancing brothers. Toward
the end of a horn of Taurus resides the Crab nebula, a remnant of a cataclysmic
Current and future positions of the planets are noted, including the Spring 2002 alignment in the western evening sky.
Note daily observations
Apparent motion is circular around earths axis.
Some celestial objects rise in east, set in west.
North circumpolar stars encircle Polaris.
Using the planetarium projector we speed up time to show the motion of the stars and planets, knowledge previous cultures gleaned from generations of stargazing traditions. Because of the earths daily spin, all stars appear to rotate around Polaris, which conveniently resides fixed above the north pole. Stars which are in the circle defined by a Polaris-to-horizon arc are called circumpolar stars, which are visible year-round.
Stars beyond the arc encircle Polaris as well, but the
appearance of that circle is broken by the ground. That is, as a star sweeps out an arc further from Polaris
than the Polaris-to-horizon distance, it too makes a big circle around Polaris,
except the ground gets in the way. Hence
those stars appear to rise and set, in the east and west respectively.
As you look toward the south you see seasonal star patterns and the
ecliptic, which is the domain of the zodiac, the sun, the moon, and the planets.
Note Seasonal observations
Sky shifts easterly approximately one degree per day (360 degrees in 365
North circumpolar stars are visible year-round.
Stars toward the south are seasonal.
In a modeling activity, twelve participants stand in a circle around the room as if standing around a campfire. The fire at the center is the sun, which is encircled by the earth. Tilt the globe about 23 degrees. Imagine a spike going through the axis and above the globe for an immense distance, ending at the star Polaris. Again, Polaris is simply an unspectacular star that happens to be conveniently located above the earths north pole.
In the course of one year, the earth revolves around the sun while its axis always points in the direction of that distant star Polaris. An observer on earth can see stars when she is on the night side of our planet. The observer can look outward in the direction away from the sun, but can see neither beyond the bright sun or through the impeding earth underfoot. Every day as the earth advances in its orbit around the sun, a new slice of sky appears to the east while a slice disappears to the west. In 365 days the sky shifts 360 degrees, or roughly one degree per day, and the pattern begins anew.
Similarly with the campfire analogy, if a person were standing with her backside toward the fire, she could see stars toward the blackness away from the fire. When warming her front side, however, the camper could not see stars beyond the fire because of the fires brightness (day), nor could she see stars below the horizon because the ground is in the way. If the camper were slowly to walk around the campfire and to twirl, eventually after one revolution (one year)she would have looked outward from the fire in all directions and will have seen everything above the horizon. Each step would yield a slightly newer view in the direction she walks. New people in the periphery become visible away from the glare of the fire as she encircles it.
While walking around the fire, the camper could only see certain stars opposite the fire (sun) at certain parts of the walk; hence, the seasonal stars. But throughout the entire walk around the fire, she could look upward toward the blackness over her head to see one common group of stars; hence the circumpolar stars.
Note ecliptic observations
The suns annual path against the background stars defines the
The planets appear to wander along the ecliptic.
The constellations of the zodiac are along the ecliptic.
Return to the campfire model with twelve participants
standing around the fire but in the distance, much further from the fire than
the original camper (earth). Those
twelve people in the distance represent constellations of the zodiac (actually,
there should be a 13th, Ophiuchus).
The planetsmore campers warming themselves near the fire--revolve
around the sun nearly in the same plane. The
constellations that appear as background stars to the sunthe ring of
participants in the distanceare the constellations of the zodiac.
It is against that well-defined background of stars that the sun, the
planets, and the moon appear; hence, the significance of the zodiac to ancient
related lore and mythologies.
Oot-Kwah-Tah, the Seven Star Dancers (Onondaga)
Eight boys who were ridiculed by their elders for wanting to have a feast for their childrens version of a medicine society bring food to their campfire. The leader of the seven boys repairs a broken drumhead, which he beats to a group chant. The elders hear the sound and seek its source. Around the campfire they find the eight boys dancing, yet as the boys encircle the fire they dance into the sky. One mother calls to her son who, upon looking back toward his mother, becomes a shooting star, or meteor. The other seven boys continue to rise and are now the Seven Dancing Brothers. (Source: Keepers of the Night)
In Greek lore they are the Pleiades. To Japanese storytellers the stars denote Subaru. For the Bantu they are a plow, whose appearance after sunset suggests it is time for planting. Per the Taureg, they are a flock of chickens. The Masai envision cattle herded together. And the Khoikhoi deem them the rain stars. (Source: African Mythology Cylinder, Learning Technologies, Inc.)
consider the three belt stars of Orion to be a staircase up to heaven.
To the Bushmen the three stars are a male zebra flanked by two female
The Dogon advocate that the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, has two small companion stars. The creator god Amma, who made the sun and the moon, also made eight different seeds. The smallest of these seeds is Po Tolo, or deep beginning, and is the embodiment of one of those two small companion stars.
(Source: African Mythology Cylinder, Learning Technologies, Inc.)
Per Egyptian lore, Osiris was the Lord of Everything. In judging the soul of a Pharoah, the omnipotent Osiris rewarded a good life by aligning it with the stars in the west, which set at the end of a long journey. Osiris punished a bad life by placing the soul in the north, among the circumpolar beasts who never find rest as they continually encircled the north pole. (Source: African Mythology Cylinder, Learning Technologies, Inc.)
dynamic model of the solar system to explain the observed motions.
constellation identification and mythologies.
Paper Plate Education
Make paper Platispheres
Predict motion of circumpolar stars
A planisphere is a device which reduces the sphere of stars
down to a plane. One can use the
instrument to indicate the positions of the stars for any given time and date.
The Platisphere reduces a portion of the sphere of stars to a paper
plate. With the childrens
version of the Platisphere a student can predict the evening position of the
circumpolar stars for any season. Construction
techniques not covered in the AFTAPP workshop are available on the Paper
Plate Astronomy video and on the Paper Plate Education website at http://analyzer.depaul.edu/paperplate.
modern scientific contributions framed in cyclical theme.
M42, the Orion Nebula
of astronomy, including HST
The Orion Nebula, or M42 (the 42nd item cataloged
by early astronomer Charles Messier), is often labeled as a stellar nursery.
Shrouded within the immense clouds of gas and dust visible with the naked
eye are embryonic stars. Images
from the Hubble Space Telescope show nodules larger than our solar system that
are likely the beginnings of star and planet formations.
These proto-planetary disks are called protoplyds.
An analogy for the process of star formation suggests there
is a center of gravity around which the dust and gas coalesce.
Imagine there to be a vacuum cleaner centrally located within a cloudy,
gas-filled room. The machine draws
in nearly all matter to its bag, where it compresses gas and dirt together
tightly. When the gas and dust
reaches a critical mass, it essentially turns on and becomes a star,
fusing hydrogen into helium and releasing light and energy.
The star is born.
Once that star turns on, it radiates energy outward and
the vacuum cleaners role is altered. As
with any cleaning job, there are dust balls and grains of sand or dirt not
vacuumed up in the first pass. These
leftovers not swept up from the cleaning process, which represent only a small
fraction of the total mass originally in the dirty room, end up being the
planets, moons, and asteroids that pervade space around the newborn star.
Earth is space debris.
M1, the Crab Nebula, remnant of a cataclysmic supernova
source of radiation at many wavelengths
of astronomy, with emphasis on non-visible light
Chinese documents and Anasazi pictographs recorded a celestial event in the year 1054 that heralded the death of a massive star. The new star that appeared in the constellation of Taurus the bull was so bright it could be seen during the daytime. Subsequent study using modern instruments reveals a crab-shaped nebula expanding outward, the telltale aftermath of a supernova explosion. If the demise of the massive star had occurred at the distance of our sun, it would have been 500 million times brighter than the sun.
Stars die through a variety of mechanisms, dependent mostly on how massive they are. Small stars like our sun, an average size, have an unspectacular death as they slowly enlarge to become red giant stars expelling outer layers of gas with a central leftover core. A massive star can have a rapid, violent demise known as a supernova.
A massive star performs a dance of equilibrium. Gravity pulls inward while the explosive pressure of fusion radiates outward. During the stars life, those opposing forces balance out and the star achieves a particular size, akin to a balloon in which the contracting tendency of the stretched rubber is countered by the volume of air within it. A round inflated balloon results.
Eventually, however, the stars ability to withstand the relentless force of gravity is overcome when the stars fuel runs out. The star reaches a critical point where it can no longer fuse matter and thus the outward pressure stops. At this juncture, gravity dominates and the star rapidly collapses. When the star collapses to its core the matter rebounds in a terrific supernova explosion. As an analogy, envision clapping two handfuls of sand together. A dense core of sand is packed together in the middle, while a bunch of sand flies outward in all directions.
The Crab Nebula, named because it looks like a many-legged crab in early photographs, is also referred to as M2 (the 2nd item cataloged by Messier). As new tools became available to study the sky, astronomers expanded our knowledge of the mechanism of stellar death. Modern instruments detected copious energy radiating from the region of the sky in which the Chinese and Anasazi witnessed their day star. At the core of the Crab Nebula is a spinning star that pulses (a pulsar) like a rapidly rotating searchlight.
In photographs we see the expanding debris flung into space, while at the core of the nebula is the dense remnant of the progenitor star. Yet death of the star begets new life. Eventually matter from the nebula may collide with a cloud of gas and dust elsewhere in the universe, renewing the cycle of stellar evolution.
Additional copies can be purchased for $17.00 through the Paper
Plate Education website.
Paper Plate Education website
A portion of the AFTAPP grant is dedicated toward the
construction and expansion of the Paper Plate Education website
Activities there include simple crafts that initiate discussions of celestial
objects and space science; modeling activities that demonstrate the motions and
scale of the planets and stars; and technical paper instruments that predict
motions of the stars, moon, and planets.
Cleveland Museum of Natural History
The new Shafran Planetarium opens January 15, 2002. Teachers can schedule programs for their group, including Stars: From Beginning to End. The museum also rents out a portable, inflatable planetarium called a Starlab after a brief training session. An accompanying resource guide includes mythologies, lesson plans, and supporting material for the African sky cylinder.
African American Museum
for art component.
After observing the
stars under the real night sky, each AFTAPP participant should fuse the
components of the programinformed stargazing, associated lore, modern
astronomyinto her collective impression of what a particular constellation
embodies. She will express her
impression of say, Taurus or Orion, on a clay tile that will then be kiln-baked.
AFTAPP is trial program. Lessons learned from the evaluation process result in amendments or additions to the material. The organizers will make supporting documents available to the teachers after the initial two workshops.
Participants in AFTAPP shall take the basic components of
AFTAPP back to their classrooms for evaluation. Amy Southon serves as the evaluation liaison for each teacher
so that the efficacy of this trial program can be judged.
Copyright ©2012 Chuck Bueter. All rights reserved.