Astronomy Day is coming at my university; any suggestions for demos?

  1. Thank you for anything you can offer. We've got a plasma globe which we can tie in to talking about solar and interstellar plasma, and we have a few Galileoscopes, but we don't really have anything else astronomy-themed. I've been thinking, but haven't come up with many ideas.

    One idea I did have is a model of Newtonian gravitational potential. Does anyone have a suggestion for how to make a model of an inverse-square potential? A curved surface would be difficult to manufacture...
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jonathan Scott

    Jonathan Scott 1,342
    Gold Member

    Sorry, not a helpful suggestion, but please be careful with your terminology; the magnitude of the gravitational field is inverse-square, but the potential is merely proportional to 1/r, not the square.
     
  4. Sorry, you're right - that's what I meant.
     
  5. berkeman

    Staff: Mentor

    A good demo would just be a PC-based program that helps folks locate constellations in the night sky. I think there are several available, and probably some for smartphones as well. That could really spark some interest in folks for Astronomy -- being able to use their smart phone as they stand outside and spot constellations by being given directions on where to look (based on their GPS coordinates that the smartphone app has access to). :smile:

    You could also set up a scale model of the Solar System in your lab, with the Sun hanging down in the middle, and the outer planets near the outer walls of the room. All in correct scale, if that's possible in a room the size of your lab. If not, maybe set it up outside if the weather is good.
     
  6. micromass

    micromass 18,668
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

  7. berkeman

    Staff: Mentor

  8. micromass

    micromass 18,668
    Staff Emeritus
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    Sowwy :cry:
     
  9. Bobbywhy

    Bobbywhy 1,908
    Gold Member

    Sundials! Teach the relative positions and motions of the earth-sun by marking a shadow's progress over time.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 24, 2014
  10. That's a really good one! I seen suggestions like that but passed over them because I think we'll be indoors... but I'll double-check.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 24, 2014
  11. If you can find a rubber sheet, say 3' x 3' and stretch it evenly on a rigid frame, then put a weight in the middle to simulate a massive object (say the sun), you can show a model of space-time and explain how the models dimple makes smaller objects orbit the central object. This would be an approximation, as two objects would actually orbit their center of mass. You can also use this to show how 'gravity'='space time dimple' can deflect light.
     
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