May 26, 2019 Filed in: Articles
Philip Freeman, teacher at Richmond Secondary School (Richmond BC), Executive member BCAPT
Black holes are big news these days. Unfortunately a significant number of statements in the press are not only mistaken but wrong in ways that obscure the truly interesting and important things we know about black holes. This article hopes to clarify a number of points about what black holes are and are not. Read More...
April 11, 2019 Filed in: Articles
Damian Pope, PhD, Senior Manager Scientific Outreach, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
What is the Event Horizon Telescope?
The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) is a network of radio telescopes spread across the globe. By pooling data from each instrument, it achieves the same effective resolution as a dish the size of the entire planet! What did it discover?
The EHT collaboration has just released the first event-horizon-scale images of M87*, a supermassive black hole at the centre of galaxy M87. The image shows an asymmetric ring of light surrounding a circular shadow. The ring of light is not the accretion disk, it is the footprint of the relativistic jet created by M87*. The asymmetry is evidence for the direction of the black hole’s spin. The size of the shadow reveals the mass of M87* which can then be used to calculate the radius of the event horizon. Note, the shadow is not the event horizon. Read More...
October 07, 2018 Filed in: Articles
Have you ever wondered about life on other worlds? How about what planets outside our Solar System might look like? Do they have an atmosphere? Are they in the habitable zone for their star? Your students most certainly have — especially if they watched any space movies, comics or video games. In that case, leave the motions of our Sun, Moon and Earth behind and let your students go deeper and farther into space in search for exoplanets!
All you need for each station is a light bulb, a box and some play dough balls. Don’t let the cheap materials fool you – there are deep inquiry-based learning opportunities in this activity to satisfy the most curious of minds. Let’s begin. Read More...
December 15, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Alasdair Paterson, Teacher at White Oaks Secondary School
Last spring, I took my students 2200 years back in time. My grade 8 students measured the size of the Earth using shadows — the technique first described by Eratosthenes. Read More...
June 17, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Matt Russo, post-doctoral fellow at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA)
Astronomers and philosophers since as far back as Kepler and Pythagoras have imagined what the music of the spheres would sound like. With the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting in the nearby TRAPPIST-1 planetary system, this becomes possible as never before. Aside from being a prime target in the search for life, the TRAPPIST-1 planets are interesting because they form the longest discovered resonant chain. This means that the ratios of the planets' orbital periods form simple whole number ratios. For example, for every two orbits of the outer planet, the next one in completes three orbits and similar patterns exist among the orbits of every pair in this system. Since whole number ratios are the basis of rhythm and harmony, TRAPPIST-1 may be the most musical planetary system ever discovered. Read More...
September 18, 2016 Filed in: Articles
Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Newsletter Editor, Teacher Danforth CTI
Edited by Tim Langford
It is difficult to get students to make astronomical observations when you live in a large city with lots of light pollution. However, there is one object that all of your students have seen, but probably not observed carefully — the Sun! I start my grade 9 astronomy unit by having my students observe the shadows formed by Sun. Read More...
September 02, 2016 Filed in: Articles
Michel Enns, Teacher Runnymede CI
I have been frustrated with gravitation simulators over the years because they stop working when the computers are updated. To avoid this, I have made one that is browser-based and will run on any device. You can find it at www3.sympatico.ca/michael.enns
. One non-standard thing that it can do is simulate the formation of a solar system with a thousand random masses. Read More...
June 04, 2016 Filed in: Articles
Phillip Freeman, Teacher, Richmond Secondary School, Richmond, B.C., Executive Member at Large BCAPT
The diffraction of light limits the resolution of optical systems. This is relevant in a number of real world cases, from the reason you can’t actually zoom in infinitely to read the license plate of the get-away car on the crime drama, to the limit to how small an insect a bat can ‘see’ with echolocation to the current plans for the Event Horizon Telescope. It is possible to observe single slit diffraction and resolution directly with very simple equipment. Read More...
February 17, 2016 Filed in: Articles
Margaret Scora, Mhona Russell, James Ball and Roberta Tevlin
The announcement that LIGO has detected gravity waves may have you scrambling to answer your student’s questions. This news connects to many topics in high school physics including waves and vibrations, interference of light, changing models of science and the analysis of data - especially the problem of signal to noise ratios. Many teaching resources have been suggested (listed at the bottom) and these have been examined to select which are the most useful for high school physics teachers. The selected videos are well-scaffolded and paced. They make good use of animations, physical models and analogies and showed a wide diversity in the people interviewed. Demos and activities were selected which require minimal prep time and cost for the teacher and which provide active-learning experiences for the student. Read More...
January 08, 2016 Filed in: Articles
Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Newsletter Editor, Teacher Danforth CTI
Teaching astronomy in the middle of a big city can be very frustrating. Your students can observe the Sun, the Moon, a few stars and sometimes a couple of planets and that’s about it. Not quite! It turns out that you can also see the International Space Station! Read More...
October 24, 2015 Filed in: Review
Ryan Thompson, OAPT Treasurer, Physics Teacher, Newmarket HS
On July 8 and 9th I attended a two day workshop at York University. The purpose of the workshop was to bring astronomy professors and graduate students together with teachers and showcase three modules that the organizers had developed for the teachers to discuss, play with and refine for use in the classroom. The organizers were from a variety of institutions, not just York but everyone was committed to increasing interest in astronomy in students and also their capability for understanding the science around this fascinating topic. Read More...
September 01, 1994 Filed in: Demo Corner
George Vanderkuur, Malvern Collegiate, Toronto
A laser, chalk dust and right-angle corner made of mirror tiles show the retro-reflection of light from a corner cube mirror. (Safety note: use a low-power laser beam and take care to avoid directing the beam into the audience.) Students will also enjoy looking into the mirror and observing that the image of their face (or open eye) is always in the corner. Try this with one eye closed. Read More...