Measuring Distances in the Universe

These activities are produced by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the European Space Agency. They are a series of excercises in which students use real data to measure astronomical distances, one of the most basic problems in modern astrophysics.

The students apply different methods to determine the distance of astronomical objects such as the supernova SN 1987A, the spiral galaxy Messier 100, the Cat's Eye Planetary Nebula globular cluster Messier 12. The excercises are specifically targetted to illustrate a range of approaches:

1 - Introduction - observatories and the Hubble Space Telescope

2 - Toolkit - magnitudes, distance and light

3 - Measuring the distance to supernova 1987A using observations from the Hubble Space Telescope

4 - The Distance to M100 as Determined by Cepheid variable stars

5 - Measuring the distance to the Cat’s Eye Nebula using observations from the Hubble Space telescope

6 - Measuring a globular star cluster’s distance and age using the ESO Very Large Telescope

7 - The distance to M100 as determined by photometry of Cepheid variable stars performed with the EU-HOU SalsaJ Software

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