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Journey Through an Exploded Star: An Online Interactive

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Earth and Space Sciences +1 Age Levels Middle School (13 to 15 years old), High School (16 to 18 years old)

In this collection, students will explore the life cycle of stars and learn about the connection between elements and space. They'll explore real data that provides evidence for the dispersal of several elements produced by the explosion of massive stars, specifically through the Cassiopeia A supernova. Then they’ll put their knowledge into practice by navigating the remains of the supernova in the online interactive “Journey Through an Exploded Star.”

  1. The activity begins with “DISCOVER." The students will go through a series of slides, learning first how the visible spectrum of light is only a small part of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, about the different telescopes scientists use to view the electromagnetic radiation across that spectrum, and finally how they've used that data to form a composite view of our universe, specifically through a 3D model of the Cassiopeia A supernova.
  2. The “PLAY” online interactive then takes the students on a first-person flight through the center of this exploded star. The interactive is split into two parts: The first part is a 2 minute guided fly-through, where Kim Arcand, project lead of the original 3D visualization found in the collection, explains the different forms of light and the elements that are traceable under those spectrums. The second is a free explore option, where students are able to manipulate the different spectrums by adjusting filters as they choose. Both parts of the interactive reinforce what they’ve previously learned within the collection about light across the EMS. This interactive works across browsers and requires no software downloads. Also included is a 360 video tour that works on mobile devices and Google Cardboard.
  3. Finally, an extension activity is included that allows students to take photographs using real MicroObservatory robotic telescopes located at Smithsonian Observatory sites in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Amado, Arizona to create their very own authentic astrophotographs. They’ll use specialized image processing software to bring out visual details from images of objects like the Moon, Sun, star clusters, nebulas, and galaxies.

This online activity could be used to augment study about the forms of radiation light can take, learning about supernovae and what happens after a star explodes, as well as learning about some of the different careers in science that are available (astrophysicists, astrophotographers, engineers, and visualization experts). As with all Learning Lab collections, it is built to be freely modified and adapted to fit your specific needs. 

Journey Through an Exploded Star: An Online Interactive

Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access

Discover: The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access

The Whole Picture

Cody Coltharp

Cassiopeia A: Optical

Source: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgement: Robert A. Fesen (Dartmouth College, USA) and James Long (ESA/Hubble)

Cassiopeia A: Infrared

NASA/JPL-Caltech/J. Rho (Caltech-SSC) 

Cassiopeia A: X-ray Spectrum

Chandra X-ray Observatory

Cassiopeia A: Multi Spectrum

NASA/JPL-Caltech 

Elements across the Electromagnetic Spectrum

Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Smithsonian X 3D Explorer

Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Play: Journey Through an Exploded Star

Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access

EXTEND: Related Activites

Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access