The college level astronomy course at HIUC Osaka sometimes has labs.


ピーター ヴァンデェヴィアー 

In my previous blog, I wrote about two labs that the students in the college level astronomy course did. In this blog, I would like to write about two more labs that they did. First, for people who did not read the previous blog, here is some basic information. The college level astronomy course at HIUC Osaka sometimes has labs. A lab means that students do hands-on activities to better understand what they are studying. Josh is the teacher of the class, not me, but I will try to give you some details about what the students did.

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Second, here is the answer to the question that was in my previous blog. Why did the light near the flashlight look blue? Why did the light far away from the flashlight look red? The answer is related to the wavelength of the light. Blue light has a short wavelength. This means that it is easy for it to hit things and change direction. The blue light hits dust particles and changes direction.  Therefore, we see blue light close to the flashlight. It is the same reason why the sky is blue. Red light has a longer wavelength. This means that it hits fewer particles and does not change direction as often as the blue light. It can travel farther. Therefore, the light at the far side of the bowl looks red. It traveled farther than the blue light. The blue light could not get that far.

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Finally, let’s look at two more labs.
In one lab, the students looked at the motion of spinning objects. For example, what happens when a planet spins? They used gyroscopes to study this. They had to spin the gyroscope and watch what it did. They had to take notes about what motions they could see. Then they had to infer (guess) what the earth does as it moves. Most students saw three motions: rotation, nutation, and precession. Rotation means to spin, to turn round and round. Nutation means to wobble (move) back and forth (left and right). Precession means that the gyroscope tilts (is not straight – it leans to one side) and the top of the gyroscope moves in a circle, but the bottom of the gyroscope does not move.

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In the other lab, they practiced doing something that many astronomers do. Astronomers use light to find out what stars are made of. The students did not look at stars, but they did look at gases in tubes. They did not know which gases they were looking at. They had to look at the gas and then decide which element it was. They did this by looking at the wavelengths of the light that the gas gave off. The gas in the tube was excited by electricity. Then each tube gave off a different color of light. The students looked at the light with a special tool. This tool split the light into its spectrum (the different colors that make up that light) and showed the wavelengths of the different colors. Each gas has a special spectrum, just like each human has a different fingerprint. You can look at the spectrum of the gas and find out what gases you are looking at. That is what the students did. They looked at the light from the gases. They checked the spectrum, and then they had to figure out which gas they were looking at – just like real astronomers.


I think it is fun to read about new things, but I think that it is more fun to learn new things by doing something. I think labs are a great way to learn some things.