The documentary-style introduction for Journey into Space
gives context to the concept of gravity. It also introduces students
to Michael Shara, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of
Natural History and the guide for this Science Exploration.
After viewing the introduction as a class, print and distribute
the following script (PDF)
to help students grasp key points such as the role of gravity
in space collisions.
A leaf falls to the forest floor. The Earth whirls around the
Sun. Billions of stars orbit around the center of the Milky Way
Galaxy. Behind it all is the force of gravity.
Gravity helps form the stars and planets. It keeps objects, like
the planets, in orbit. Gravity can also cause objects to collide.
After all, objects in space aren’t looking where they’re
going. And they definitely don’t have brakes! Space collisions
are happening all the time. Stars crash into each other. Two galaxies
collide and form a bigger one. Asteroids and comets deflect and
crash into planets including Earth!
Space collisions are constantly shaping and reshaping the planets,
stars, and galaxies that make up the universe. In fact, that's
what formed the planets in our very own solar system collisions
between particles of dust and gas orbiting around the early Sun.
You could say the force of gravity pulled Michael Shara into
astronomy. When he was about 6 years old, his cousin gave him
two books about astronomy. One was about double stars, which are
pairs of stars that revolve around each other. By the next night,
Michael was scanning the night sky for double stars with a pair
of binoculars. Before long, Michael noticed that the middle star
in the handle of the Big Dipper wasn’t just a double star,
but a triple! He was fascinated and began to wonder: What pulls
two, three, or even more stars together like that? The answer,
he learned, was gravity. Today, Michael is an astrophysicist at
the American Museum of Natural History. And he's still fascinated
by clusters of stars in the night sky.
Begin a class discussion with these questions:
Choose a level from the menu to find teaching ideas and learning
connections for each activity.
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