Investigating Astronomy is a full-year astronomy course written expressly for high-school students. It includes all major topics in an astronomy course while engaging students in hands-on investigations. Students also use technology that helps them learn in an interactive and meaningful way.
Investigating Astronomy focuses on science and engineering practices.
One of the important practices emphasized in Investigating Astronomy is the process of making scientific claims and supporting them with evidence, and using scientific reasoning to justify and revise those claims.
Investigating Astronomy engages students with active learning.
Each unit has a series of Explorations based on an Essential Question that guides learning. The Explorations prepare students for the unit Challenge, a project that makes use of all information presented in the unit.
Investigating Astronomy provides a Web-Based Data Center.
The Investigating Astronomy Data Center, used in many of the curriculum activities, gives students a sense of working with real data using tools that are similar to those astronomers use, but with an interface that does not require a steep learning curve.
Unit 1: Investigating Motions of the Sky
Students prepare a report or presentation that addresses each of 8 claims made by archeologists about an ancient Mayan site that is theorized to be an astronomical observatory. They use Starry Night to prove or disprove the claims. This module addresses aspects of naked-eye astronomy. Students investigate the apparent motions of the sun, stars, and planets as viewed at different times of year and from various locations on Earth, including where they live. They also investigate how comets, meteors, and supernovae appear to the naked eye.
Unit 2: Investigating the Sun-Earth-Moon System
Students create a calendar using a list of themes relating to the unit. For each theme, they must produce a diagram and caption explaining it. Example themes: How does the Sun rotate? What causes the first-quarter Moon? Students also mark phases of the Moon for each month and other upcoming astronomical events This module addresses how the relative movements (rotation and revolution) and positions of Earth, the Sun, and the Moon account for Moon phases and lunar and solar eclipses.
Unit 3: Investigating Planets
Students design realistic planets and moons for an imaginary solar system. Then they create a poster or other presentation about their solar system. Students describe the characteristics of each planet and moon (composition, diameter and mass consistent with composition, atmospheric characteristics, orbital eccentricity, etc.) and calculate the orbital period of each planet. This module addresses the nature and exploration of the planets and some of the moons in our solar system and beyond. Students investigate the scale of the solar system, key characteristics of the planets and moons, our planetary explorations including the search for possible life, and extrasolar planets—planets orbiting stars other than our Sun.
Unit 4: investigating Tools of astronomy
Students choose one entity from a list of objects (galaxies, cluster, the Sun, or nebula) and make a poster that describes its characteristics in terms of different types of images (IR, radio, X-ray, visible, or gamma ray) gleaned from the Internet This module addresses the tools that astronomers use to analyze the various types of electromagnetic radiation emitted by astronomical objects in order to understand their properties and processes. The nature of electromagnetic waves is explored as well as image processing, measuring brightness and color, and spectral-line analysis.
Unit 5: Investigating Stars
Students make a “Ten Most Wanted” poster. They are given a “crime dossier” for their selected star that contains a “mugshot,” general description, the star’s fingerprints (spectrum) and other research papers relating to their type of star (red giant, white dwarf, etc.). This module addresses the characteristics and life cycles of stars. Students investigate the differences between stars, planets, and moons, the process of nuclear fusion, and the classification of stars. The evolution of stars is explored, and the nature of supernovae and the cosmic implications of both the explosion and the remnants of a star’s destruction are considered.
Unit 6: Investigating the Universe
students are given a portfolio for both nearby and distant galaxies. They then use the data to establish a value for Hubble’s constant, and use that value to estimate the size and age of the universe. This module prepares students to measure the size and the age of the universe. They will use various distance measurement techniques including parallax, standard candles such as Cepheid variable stars and type Ia supernovae, and measuring the redshift of spectral lines.