Two Red Giants

Permalink Journey Through A Fifth Grade Science Class. HERE:
This activity used toilet paper to model how far away each of the planets are from the sun! Great idea! 
Permalink Astronomy Clever Catch Ball: On sale for $12.95 
The Astronomy Clever Catch includes questions such as: How fast does light travel? What is a shooting star? Two stars in orbit around each other make a __________.
Permalink A beautiful photo. Maybe you could use it to talk to your students about why the path of the stars appears the way it does in this time-lapse photograph. 
Permalink A Positional Astronomy Chart. There’s nothing wrong with brushing up a little on the astronomy you learned in college. 
Permalink Just a friendly reminder to help you brush up on your HR Diagram/star facts! Remember: blue stars are hotter! (weird. but true.)
Permalink dvdp:

Complete time-lapse video of the Sun, spanning the entire  months of September, October and November 2011 as seen through the SWAP  ultraviolet instrument onboard the European Space Agency spacecraft  Proba-2.
Need some evidence to prove to your students that stars don’t actually have five points? Here you GO!

A lesson plan for 5th grade on Earth Systems in Space and Time. (Thank you, Ms. Erin!)

GLCE Standards for Science for 5th grade:


Earth Science: Earth Systems and Earth in Space and Time


In the fourth grade students were introduced to the relationship between the sun,

moon, and Earth. They have a general understanding how the visible shape of the

moon defines a month and the spin of the Earth defines a day. Fifth grade students

explore seasons and their relationship to the tilt of the Earth on its axis and revolution

around the sun. They define a year as one revolution of the Earth around the sun,

explain lunar and solar eclipses based on the relative positions of the sun, moon, and

Earth and finally, the effect of the moon’s gravity on the ocean’s tides. Students study

the universe beyond the sun, moon, and Earth and describe the position, motion, and

relationship of the planets and other objects in the sky to the sun.


K-7 Standard

S.IP.M.1 Inquiry involves generating questions, conducting  

investigations, and developing solutions to problems through  

reasoning and observation.

S.IP.05.11 Generate scientific questions based on observations,  

         investigations, and research.

S.IP.05.12 Design and conduct scientific investigations.

S.IP.05.15 Construct charts and graphs from data and observations.


Inquiry Analysis and Communication

K-7 Standard


S.IA.05.11 Analyze information from data tables and graphs to answer

          scientific questions.

S.IA.05.13 Communicate and defend findings of observations and  

          investigations using evidence.


Reflection and Social Implications

K-7 Standard

S.RS:  Develop an understanding of  

the importance of reflection on scientific knowledge and its application to new

situations to better understand the role of science in society and technology.

S.RS.M.1 Reflecting on knowledge is the application of scientific

knowledge to new and different situations. Reflecting on knowledge

requires careful analysis of evidence that guides decision-making

and the application of science throughout history and within society.

S.RS.05.15 Demonstrate scientific concepts through various  

          illustrations, performances, models, exhibits, and  



E.ST.05.11 Design a model that of the solar system that shows

             the relative order and scale of the planets, dwarf  

        planets, comets, and asteriods to the sun.


E.ST.M.2 Solar System Motion- Gravity is the force that  

     keeps most objects in the solar system in regular and  

     predictable motion.


Learning Objectives for the unit: Students will gain an understanding of the chronological life cycle of a star, from birth to death, as well as how to recognize the different stages.

Prior Knowledge/Background Information: This will be the students’ first lesson on stars, thus students should have little to no prior knowledge of the lifecycle of a star.

Key Concepts: The composition of a star, its life cycle from birth to death, nuclear fusion/reaction, White Dwarf, Red Giant, Super Nova, Nebula, Black Hole, Neutron star.



Grade 4

4.2P.1 Describe physical changes in matter and explain how they occur.

Grade 5

5.2P.1 Describe how friction, gravity, and magnetic forces affect objects on or near Earth.



1.     Pass out Worksheet A with information on the different type of stars.  Read as a class.  After reading, ask the students what shape they believe stars are.  Choose three students and have them come up to the board and draw their shape.  After they draw, ask them why they believe stars are the shape they drew.  This will give students a chance to use their reasoning skills. 


2.     Next, pass out to each group of students (depending on the size of the classroom) a set of note cards with each step of each stage of the life cycle of a star.  In their group, the students will have to deduce the order of the note cards in addition to what size their star is: medium or massive.  The teacher will then call on a student from each group and have them present their findings.


Set 1:

  1. Nebula
  2. Protostar
  3. Main Sequence Star
  4. Red Giant
  5. Fusion of helium atoms to form carbon atoms
  6. Planetary nebula
  7. White Dwarf
  8. Black Dwarf


Set 2:

  1. Nebula
  2. Protostar
  3. Main Sequence Star
  4. Red Giant
  5. Fusion of helium atoms to form carbon atoms
  6. Supernova           
  7. Neutron star
  8. Black hole


1.     Star Spiral Worksheet B:  Pass out, and have the students try first without the help of  Worksheet A.  After they first try on their own, have them work as a group to finish the worksheet, then check as a class.  This will allow the students to develop their communication and reasoning skills.  They will also learn how to work with their classmates

3.     Supernova video. . The video is 9 minutes 49 seconds long.  If time is not available, the the type I supernova can be explained starting from 6 minutes into the movie. Have the students jot down three to five points of information that they found interesting in the video.  After the video is watched, has a few students say what they wrote down.


4.     Model a Black Hole Worksheet C:

Ask students what stage in the life cycle of star comes after the supernova.  The answer the class should say is a black hole.  First make sure there are no latex allergies in the classroom (if there are, you can use non-latex materials).  Have the students all circle around one main table.  Demonstrate a black hole following the guidelines on Worksheet C.  Have the students ask questions, and participate in discussion of what is happening in the activity.


5.     Assessment: Star T/F Maze Worksheet D:

Have the students complete the maze as an end of the lesson assessment.



            The first stage in the life cycle of a star is called the nebula.  It is here that stars are “born.”  There are different types of nebula.  An emission nebula glows brightly because the gas in it is energized by the stars that have already formed within in.  In a Reflection Nebula, starlight reflects on the grains of dust in the nebula.  Planetary Nebulas are the outer layers of a star that are lost when the star changes from a red giant to a white dwarf.

After  the nebula forms, gravity pulls the hydrogen gas in the nebula together and it begins to spin.  As the gas spins faster and faster, it heats up and is known as a protostar.  Eventually the temperature reaches 15,000,000 °C and nuclear fusion occurs in the cloud’s core. The cloud begins to glow brightly. At this stage, it contracts a little and becomes stable. It is now called a main sequence star and will remain in this stage, shining for millions or billions of years to come.

As the main sequence star glows, hydrogen in the core is converted into helium by nuclear fusion.  When the hydrogen supply in the core begins to run out, the core becomes unstable and contracts.  The outer shell of the star, which is still mostly hydrogen, starts to expand.  As it expands, it cools and glows red.  The star has now reached the red giant phase.  It is red because it is cooler than it was in the main sequence star stage and it is a giant because the outer shell has expanded outward.  All stars evolve the same way up to the red giant phase.

The amount of mass a star has determines which of the following life cycle paths it will take after the red giant phase.  For medium sized stars, the hydrogen gas throughout the red giant phase in the outer shell continues to burn and the temperature in the core continues to increase.  At 200,000,000 °C the helium atoms in the core fuse to form carbon atoms.  The last of the hydrogen gas in the outer shell is blown away to form a ring around the core.  This ring is called a planetary nebula.  When the last of the helium atoms in the core are fused into carbon atoms, the medium size star begins to die.

Gravity causes the last of the star’s matter to collapse inward and compact.  This is the white dwarf stage.  At this stage, the star’s matter is extremely dense.  White dwarfs shine with a white hot light.  Once all of their energy is gone, they no longer emit light.  The star has now reached the black dwarf phase in which it will forever remain.

When massive size stars reach the red giant phase, the core temperature increases as carbon atoms are formed from the fusion of helium atoms.  Gravity continues to pull carbon atoms together as the temperature increases forming oxygen, nitrogen, and eventually iron.  At this point, fusion stops and the iron atoms start to absorb energy.  This energy is eventually released in a powerful explosion called a supernova.  A supernova can light up the sky for weeks.  The temperature in a supernova can reach 1,000,000,000°C.  The core of a massive star that is 1.5 to 4 times as massive as our Sun ends up as a neutron star after the supernova.  Neutron stars spin rapidly giving off radio waves.  If the radio waves are emitted in pulses (due to the star’s spin), these neutron stars are called pulsars.  The core of a massive star that has 8 or more times the mass of our Sun remains massive after the supernova.  No nuclear fusion is taking place to support the core, so it is swallowed by its own gravity.  It has now become a black hole which readily attracts any matter and energy that comes near it.  Black holes are not visible.  They are detected by the X-rays which are given off as matter falls into the hole.



            This lesson plan includes different areas of curriculum, such as mathematics and physics.  The concepts of gravity and being able to recognize the comparative sizes of the stars to each other are key connections to those said areas of academia. Through the in class activities, and group work, students are able to strengthen their cooperative skills, and learn to work with partners. 

            Real world applications of this lesson would be relevant through comparing sizes, being able to solve puzzles, using deductive reasoning, and being able to work with others.  Looking specifically at the subject of astronomy, the universe is constantly expanding.  NASA and other space agencies have been trying to figure out different ways in which to travel to other planets, and to learn about what else is happening in our universe.  It is important to learn about stars because the sun is a major star in our galaxy.  It gives us life, and nourishment.  Without the sun, the earth would not be able to survive.



            Through the in class activities the educator will be able to see the student’s knowledge first hand.  Through participation, students will be able to demonstrate their knowledge, and correct any misconceptions.  The assessment at the end of the lesson will show the student’s full understanding of the material.


Works Cited:


Bradford Robotic Telescope. University of Bradford, 23 June 2003. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <>.


Truelove, Elizabeth. The Life Cycle of Stars. N.p.: NASA, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <>.


Tyler, Pat. NASA’S HEARSARC: Education and Public Information. NASA, 23 June 2003. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <>.


Whitlock, Laura. Imagining the Universe: The Life Cycle of Stars. N.p.: NASA, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <>. 

Permalink discoverynews:

Newly Found Alien Planet Could Host Life
The newly confirmed planet, Kepler-22b, orbits smack in the middle of the habitable zone of a star similar to our own.

Previous research had hinted at the existence of such Earth-like  planets, where liquid water could exist, but this is the first time such  a life-friendly alien planet has been confirmed.
The planet is about 2.4 times wider around than Earth. It’s still  unknown whether Kepler-22b has a rocky, gaseous or liquid composition,  but its discovery is a milestone to finding Earth-like planets.
“This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth’s twin,” Douglas  Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington  said

Read more
Permalink NASA&#8217;s site about Black Holes for your students! Just click HERE. 

Thanks Erin for this BLACK HOLE DEMONSTRATION and ACTIVITY for Kids!

Model a Black Hole

This demonstration allows for a visual depiction of the effect a black hole does or does not have on the other stars around it and how that effect depends on the mass of the black hole.


  •  latex balloon cut open and pulled flat, or sheet of latex
  •  Bowl
  • tape
  • package of small round beads
  •  heavy marble 


1. Tape the sheet of latex (this represents space-time) tightly across the top of some round

object…such as a bowl. The sheet should not be so tight that it will tear if stretched further,

but should be tight enough that there are not any wrinkles!

2. Scatter a few beads on the sheet of latex (this represents matter that is near the black hole).

Make sure they are spread out to all parts of the sheet.

3. Gently drop heavy marble onto the sheet of latex (this represents the black hole). Try not

to let it bounce! If you don’t have a ball bearing, gently push down on the center of the sheet

with the eraser end of a pencil.

4. Explain what happened to the matter when the black hole was put into place. Why did this


5. What would happen if the ball bearing was heavier (or if you push harder on the pencil)?

What physical analogy to the black hole may be made?


A Packet of Astronomy Resources by Kala. Includes books and activities for students of all ages! (Thank You!)

Self Science Station- Astronomy

Purpose: While glancing through the state standards pertaining to astronomy I noticed that there where many items or concepts about astronomy that I have always found interesting or been curious about that were not included. I feel that this is a common problem with the state curriculum, that there are many concepts that students may be curious about or have an interest in that are not attached to GLCEs and therefore do not get covered.  So for my own future classroom I came up with the idea of a classroom “Self Science Station”, where the teacher would put pictures, books, activities etc. that cover extra material that students may find interesting about the current science lesson or unit. Students will be free to go to that area during any free time in class such as when they finish work early or have indoor recess. This project includes several ideas of what you may include in an astronomy themed science station.

Book Suggestions: “A Child’s Introduction to The Night Sky”

By: Michael Driscoll and Meredith Hamilton

This book includes pictures and names of planets, major stars and constellations, and other items students may see and wonder about in the night sky (satellites, planets, the moon, comets etc.) It also includes a Star Wheel (similar but simpler than to the one we have) so students know what stars to look for at different times of the year.

(Upper Elementary Grades)

“What’s Out There? A Book About Space”

By: Lynn Wilson

An illustrated children’s book about all the different things we can find in our solar system: stars, planets, moons, asteroids, comets and more. It also describes how humans are exploring the solar system

(Mid- Upper Elementary Grades)

“The Plants in our Solar System”

By: Franklyn M. Branley

A book that includes fun facts about all of the planets that make up our solar system.

(Lower-Mid elementary Grades)

“The Everything Kids Astronomy Book”

By: Kathi Wagner and Sheryl Racine

This book contains tons of activities, puzzles, facts, vocabulary and trivia about all kinds of astronomy including orbits, planets, the night sky and more. It also does a great job of putting the large quantities used to describe things in the solar system (LY, millions, billions etc.) in perspective

(all grades) 


Comet Foldable Activity

  • Teaching the parts of a comet


  1. Fold Paper in half “hamburger style”
  2. Cut paper in half width-wise, ONLY to the crease of the fold
  3. Draw the comet so the Nucleus and Coma lie on one half and the tail lies on the other

Space Sequencing Foldable Activity

  • Teaches the order of size of common astronomy terms: Universe, Galaxy, Solar System, Earth


  1. Layer 2 sheets of paper so that one is sticks out about 1 inch above the other
  2. Fold both sheets of paper in half so you have 4 “tabs”
  3. Label each tab with the correct term and include pictures if desired

Astronomy Word Search/Cross Word

  • Both activities work to help students become familiar with astronomy vocabulary- I would use a word search for younger grades and a cross word puzzle for older grades once they are more familiar with terms, definitions, the solar system model etc.
  • Both activities can be created using online tools such as

Sunrise/set Foldable Activity

  • Teachers kids about the direction of sunrise and sunset


  1. Fold Paper in half “hamburger style”
  2. Cut paper in half width-wise, ONLY to the crease of the fold
  3. Draw the beginning of sunset (w) and sunrise (E) on the top flaps
  4. Draw the conclusion of sunset (w) and sunrise (E) on the bottom flap


“Stoplight Stars” foldable activity

·      Teaches the different characteristics of the different color stars


  1. Fold paper length-wise down the middle
  2. Cut top flap into 3 equal flaps- cut ONLY to crease
  3. Draw a red, yellow and blue star on each top flap
  4. List characteristics of each star type beneath each flap


Nine Planets Coloring Page

·      Great for younger grades who aren’t yet proficient in reading/writing on their own


Punch-Out Constellation Activity



Planets Song

Solar Flares (this is a video of the same event pictured in the photo of the sun above)

This is the book I got the foldable activities from: “Big Book of Science” by Dinah Zike