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Paper Plate Education
"Serving the Universe on a Paper Plate"

Activity: Galaxy Models

The following text is reprinted from GLPA Proceedings, 1993, p. 38.  It was written by Jeanne Bishop as part of a series of in-planetarium lesson plans.  Used with permission.

4.   GALAXY MODELS.  Two white paper plates, two white paper bowls, piece of cotton, stapler, glow paint, small brush, marker: After participants get all of the materials, show a slide of galaxy seen straight-on.  Staple two plates together with bottoms out.  With the brush apply glow paint in spirals on both sides.  Put the spirals so they ''match'' on the two sides.  Put a dark mark about three-fifths of the way from center to edge, representing the sun with the earth—and us.  Do this on each side.  The plates should now be held carefully so that the paint does not smear or come off.  Turn out the room lights.  (Galaxies glow nicely.) Show the M31 slide seen earlier.  Participants hold their plates so they get a view of them like we see for M31 (tipped at an angle from straight-on).  Show a slide of a spiral seen edge-on.   Participants hold their plates so they look like this (edge-on).   Show a slide of an elliptical galaxy seen straight-on.  Turn on the lights.   Ask participants what we can do to make a model of this elliptical galaxy.  (Use the two bowls stapled together with bottoms out.)  Staple the bowls together.  Use the brush to paint the two bottoms of the bowls with a thin layer of glow paint.  Turn out the lights.  Show a picture of the Large Magellanic Cloud.  Turn on the lights.   Ask participants how we could model this irregular galaxy.  (Use the cotton pulled into an irregular shape).  Pull the cotton into an irregular shape.  (Do not try putting glow paint on it.)  Clean up.  (Take the spiral galaxy model and move back to the planetarium.  Caution participants to be careful not to smear the paint.)  

5.  WHY THE MILKY WAY LOOKS LIKE IT DOES IN OUR SKY.  Spiral galaxy models: Show the current evening sky.  "Hold your model by the edges so that it goes along the Milky Way in our sky.  Notice the mark for our place in the galaxy.  Imagine that you are there and looking along the galaxy's thin part edge.  Would you see a band in the sky?"  (Yes.)  Change the sky to the way it looks later at night.  Before going forward, say, "Tip your plate to show how the Milky Way seems to tip around us as the earth turns.  Be careful not to get paint on your hands."  After seeing the changes, suggest that participants look for the Milky Way in the real sky from a dark place this fall and winter.

Contributed by Jeanne Bishop.

 GLPA Proceedings, 1993, p. 38.


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