AAPT 2005 Albuquerque

Hands-on astronomy share-a-thon


These activities are available on Paul Doherty's website


or search for Paul Doherty on Google, I am the first hit.

there are also astronomy activities on the Exploratorium Website


Here are a few of my favorites

Planet Size

Mars size model using clay, note that volume scales as the cube of the radius.


The moon version


Gravitational Acceleration

Observe the acceleration of gravity on Mars, 0.38g :

Using an inclined plane: http://www.exo.net/~pauld/activities/astronomy/marswalk.html

Using an Atwoods machine: http://www.exo.net/~pauld/activities/astronomy/marsatwoods.html


Atmospheric pressure on Mars is near the triple point of water.

Water on the surface of Mars boils at 0 °C.

You can boil water inside a sealed syringe by reducing the pressure.


Atmosphere Bar, model the pressure of the earth's atmosphere with a 1 inch square 1.3 meter long steel bar.(weird mixed units.) then make a Mars bar 1 cm long.


The atmospheric density versus height can be modeled using a stack of donut magnets on a pencil.

http://www.exo.net/~pauld//summer_institute/summer_day16magnetism/ Magnetic_atmosphere_model.html

Equatorial Bulge

You can throw a Koosh Ball into the air and spin it to create a model of a spinning planet with an equatorial bulge.



As the universe expands so does the wavelength of light: the cosmological redshift.

Model this by drawing a sinewave on a rubber band.


A balloon can be used to inspire thought about non-Euclidean geometry:


In curved space the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is not pi (which is defined for flat space.)


Curved Space, the distance between two reference points depends on the presence of nearby masses.


Model the size of the Universe by a street 14 blocks long, one block per billion light years.


Model the appearance of the Universe as a city, with 1 block per billion years.


Make a glass lens from a wine glass base that models the image making of a gravitational lens.



Scientific Explorations with Paul Doherty

© 2005

6 January 2005