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PULSAR STARS AND BLACK HOLES
by Rob Clouse
University of Idaho Student

GRADE: 7 to 8

SUBJECT MATTER: Earth and Space Science, Astronomy

OVERVIEW
Students will learn about the discovery of pulsar stars, and the characteristics of pulsar stars. Theories and ideas behind black holes will be discussed. The issues of women’s historical role in science will also be touched on. Students will explore the inquiry process.


LEARNING OBJECTIVES

Students will:

  • Describe physical attributes of pulsar stars and black holes
  • Compare the factors which create black holes and pulsar stars
  • Compare and contrast traditional optical telescopes with radio telescopes
  • Discuss the historical role of women in science
  • Explore the Scientific Method Research a topic on the Internet

STANDARDS
National Science Teachers Standards, http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/
books/nses/html/6d.html

  • Content Standard A, Science as Inquiry Content
  • Standard E, Science and Technology Content
  • Standard G, History and Nature of Science Science as Human Endeavor, History of Science

PREP FOR TEACHER

  • Assemble TV and VCR
  • Make copies
  • Bookmark websites and add plug-ins if necessary

PREVIEWING ACTIVITIES

Review the methods in which astronomers use to view stars. Ask students if they can think of any other ways besides telescopes in which an astronomer might be able to locate heavenly bodies. What do they know about pulsars and black holes? Are they recent or old discoveries?

Ask students what they would do if they thought they were receiving messages from extra-terrestrial life forms. How would you feel? Would you need evidence before you told anyone? Who would you tell?

MATERIALS

MEDIA COMPONENTS

Video
PBS Video – A Science Odyssey “Blips, Black Holes and the Nobel Prize

WEB SITES

NASA’S pulsar site:
http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs
/science/know_l2/pulsars.html

Ask an astronomer:
http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs
/ask_astro/ask_an_astronomer.
html

A transcript of Jocelyn Bell's 1977 speech:
http://www.bigear.org/vol1no1/
burnell.htm

Listen to pulsars here:
http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/~pulsar
/Education/Sounds/sounds.html

Female Nobel Prize Laureates:
http://www.almaz.com/nobel
/women.html

Women in Science and Medicine:
http://www.worldbook.com/fun/
wscimed/html/intro.htm

4000 years of women in science
http://www.astr.ua.edu/4000WS
/summary.shtml

Picture of SETI radio observatory:
http://www.bigear.org


VIEWING ACTIVITIES

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, to give students a specific responsibility while viewing they will be asked to fill out a worksheet which emphasizes several important points in the film.

START the video at the beginning of the segment, “Blips, Black Holes and the Nobel Prize.”

PAUSE after the discussion about radio astronomy vs. astronomy Check for understanding and have students answer the worksheet questions

CONTINUE until after the description about observation and questioning. Predict what the blips could mean or be. What else emits radio waves?

CONTINUE and PAUSE after the second blip is found. Discuss why this event rules out little green men. Why do scientists look for evidence?

PLAY and PAUSE after Bell explains how she ruled out the possibility that the signals were being transmitted by extra-terrestrial life. Discuss how she analyzed the data she collected to come to such a conclusion.

PLAY and PAUSE after the section on black holes. Ask the students if they think there are black holes. Discuss some of the theories behind black holes.

PLAY the video until the end. Ask students if they thought Jocelyn Bell deserved to share the Nobel Peace Prize with her professor. Discuss the historical role of women in science. Give students time to complete their worksheets by using information from the video, the library, books and the Internet.

 

POST VIEWING ACTIVITIES

CULMINATING ACTIVITY
Students will search the Internet for information related to the video. They will all search for any current concrete evidence of Black Holes.

Divide the students into groups. Ask each group to search the Internet for a different topic related to the video.

Some suggestions are: pulsars, radio waves, black holes, neutron star, and female scientists.

Each group member will be expected to find a different website relating to their topic and write a brief description of the website. The whole group will make a topic information sheet containing discoveries from the websites and descriptions of the websites to give to all the students.

Students will be assessed on the completeness of their topic sheet, and their worksheet.

EXTENSIONS

Literature:
Read a science fiction story on the subject, looking for accuracy in descriptions and facts.


For additional lesson plans and ideas relating to this topic and many others try TeacherSource at PBS Online! You will find activities, lesson plans, teacher guides and links to other great educational web sites! Search the database by keyword, grade level or subject area! Mathline and Scienceline are also great resources for teachers seeking teaching tips, lesson plans, assessment methods, professional development, and much more!


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