Activity: Identifying Elements in Supernova
Days Needed 1 Class period
Grade level 9 - 12
Using X-ray line data, the students will identify elements
contained in supernova remnants. Students will compare and contrast
Supernova Remnant Spectral Data from different X-ray observatories.
Science and Math Standards
|Content Standard 1:
- Mathematics as Problem Solving
|Content Standard A:
- Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
- Understandings about scientific inquiry
|Content Standard 4:
- Mathematical Connections.
|Content Standard B:
- Structure of Atoms
- Interactions of energy and matter
|Content Standard 8
- Geometry from an Algebraic Perspective
|Content Standard G:
- Nature of Scientific Knowledge
Math Students should have some pre-algebra, and be able
to identify patterns and interpret graphs
Science Students should have an understanding of spectra
and how they are represented, an understanding of how atoms produce
spectral lines. Students should understand how elements are produced and
heated in supernova remnants.
In groups of 2 or more, the students will be given several X-ray spectra
from the ASCA X-ray satellite and will be asked to determine what
are present using a chart listing elements and the energies of their
emission lines. Following a class discussion of their results, they will
then be given ASTRO-E spectra of the same sources and asked to determine
which elements are present. (There will be much more accuracy with
ASTRO-E.) Finally, they will be given spectra from Constellation-X and
asked to determine what elements are present. (There will be even better
resolution with Constellation-X). Compare and contrast their findings as
- Simulated ASCA, Astro-E and Constellation-X spectra of Tycho supernova
remnant (download Microsoft Word documents from below and print out)
- Chart of X-ray lines corresponding to elements (print out student
Simulated Supernova Remnant Spectra
- Simulated ASCA Spectrum (doc, pdf)
- Simulated Astro-E Spectrum (doc, pdf)
- Simulated Constellation-X Spectrum (doc, pdf)
Hand out the Student Worksheet to the class.
Have the class do the activity and answer the questions on the worksheet.
The teacher may collect and grade them.
Extension - Using Student Hera to Examine a Supernova Spectrum
Student Hera gives students the opportunity to analyze the same data
sets that scientists use, using the same tools that scientists use. The
Student Hera web pages walk students through examining a spectrum a
supernova remnant to identify elements present in the hot gas.
Take me to Student Hera
Formative assessment and observation should be evident throughout the
lesson. The worksheet, final questions during closure or a future quiz may
serve as summative assessment.
Direct students to write for ten minutes in their journals summarizing the
lab and all procedures in this lesson. Encourage students to then share
their findings and what they might have written in their journals.
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