This list is designed to link to suitable resources to use space as a context for teaching STEM subjects for students above the age of 16.
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Links and Resources
For teachers of advanced physics who may have an interest in computing, this Astro-Pi activity explores radiation in space and considers how it might affect human health.
Humans currently live aboard the International Space Station, where they are exposed to radiation emanating from the Sun and from cosmic ray sources in deep space. These activities help students learn about the types of ionising radiation, how they are absorbed or transmitted, and what effect they can have on the health of astronauts.
This taster resource looks at the hazards of radiation exposure in space travel by modelling mutation in seeds with Rabidops. They are imaginary plants made from midget gem sweets and cocktail sticks. Rabidops are loosely based on Arabidopsis, a plant used extensively in genetics research and also used in several space experiments looking at the effect of gravity on plant growth.
For teachers of secondary school science, this Astro-Pi physics resource looks at gravity, microgravity and weightlessness.
Students learn the fundamentals of gravitational force and potential energy, and apply these ideas to projectiles and orbiting bodies - particularly the International Space Station (ISS).
This resource, from the European Space Agency, contains exercises in physics and chemistry based on real space data, designed for secondary schools. The exercises and data were developed and checked by ESA space scientists and engineers.
There are a total of 25 exercises and each exercise page has an associated page of solutions. The following curriculum areas are covered by the exercises: thermodynamics, mechanics, energy, electricity, waves, geometry, quantum physics, electromagnetic radiation, density, chemical reactions, gravitation, ideal gases, power and momentum.
This AstroPi resource helps students investigate the magnetic field of the Earth. The series of activities develops from basic principles of magnetism through to some understanding of the nature and cause of the Earth's magnetism.
Details about the Astro-Pi competition can be found at www.astro-pi.org
Satellites and other spacecraft use star cameras to image space and to determine which direction they are pointing. This resource, suitable for upper secondary school students, looks in detail at the night sky, examining objects and orbital motion within the solar system.
This resource is linked to the Astro Pi competition www.astro-pi.org
Using the unique conditions found in zero gravity, Richard demonstrates conservation of linear momentum using collisions between two tennis balls. The conservation of angular momentum is shown by looking at the effects of moving the mass of a spinning object towards its centre.
Through discussion and worked examples, this resource enables students to combine concepts of circular motion with Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation to understand the motion of satellites. It includes an explanation of Kepler’s third law.
The activities look at:
• Newton's cannonball analogy
• Kepler's laws of planetary motion
• geostationary orbits
• orbital motion
From the Institute of Physics.
The topics covered are:
• Observations and information from spectra
• Red shift and the Doppler effect
• The expanding universe and Hubble's law
Different colour Lego bricks are assigned to different quarks and leptons. The quarks can be put together to make hadrons, such as protons and neutrons. The blocks can also be used to show particle interactions and decays.
The resource displays timings from the beginning of the universe, and shows how Lego bricks can be used to describe the synthesis of lighter elements, such as hydrogen and helium, up to carbon.
This book on cosmology, from the Royal Astronomical Society, provides a good primer for those teaching A-level physics courses or GCSE Astronomy.
The resource begins by introducing the history of measurements in cosmology, from Aristotle to Galileo and Newton. It gives brief explanations of:
• the inverse square law for light
• Doppler and red shift
• Hubble’s law.
In this activity, from the Royal Observatory Greenwich, students use real data, taken from a scientific paper, to plot the rotational curve of M31 (Andromeda), our neighbouring spiral galaxy.
They will look at Kepler’s third law to predict the motion of stars around the centre of M31. They will then measure the wavelengths of hydrogen emission spectra taken at a range of radii. The Doppler equation will be used to determine whether these spectra come from the approaching or receding limb of the galaxy and the velocity of rotation at that point. A velocity vs radius graph is plotted and compared with their predicted result.