UCI Observatory - Astronomy Outreach Program Astronomy Activities

During tours of the UCI Observatory and our visits to local schools, we give students a Powerpoint presentation on the Earth-Moon-Sun, Solar System, All About Stars or Galaxies and the Expanding Universe and then we split large groups of students into smaller groups of 10 - 20 students and rotate the groups through a number of different activities. We offer range of activities, as shown below, that are age appropriate and content specific. We are open to adapting or expanding the activities to fit your group's specific needs. A standard tour of the Observatory would typically include a tour of the 24-inch telescope and dome (Activity 1) and three additional activities from the following list. A standard visit to a school would include four activities from the following list.

Activity Grade Level Day or Night? Photo
 1. Tour of the Dome and 24" Telescope
Students learn how the computer-controlled 24" telescope, CCD camera and spectrograph work. Students learn how astronomers determine an object's luminosity, temperature, velocity and chemical composition using telescopes.
All Ages Day and Night
2. Star Gazing
During night time visits, students will view planets, stars and nebule with the 24" telescope and another portable 8" or 12" telescope set up outside the dome.  Students will receive a Night Sky map. An instructor will show them how to use it, and how to identify the planets and some popular constellations.
All Ages Night

3. Constellations of the Zodiac
Students explore how the constellations of the Zodiac change as time passes during the course of a night and over the course of a year. They learn to predict what constellations they can see at any given time and month.
Gr 3-HS,
but can be adapted for younger children
Day or Night
4. Viewing Solar Flares and Sunspots
Students will use two portable 8" telescopes to look at sunspots and solar flares. Solar flares are imaged through a narrow-band Halpha filter that allows us to see solar prominences and flares on the outer edge of the Sun. 
All Ages Day
5. Slides of Stars and Galaxies
We have developed slide viewers that we can use during the day to teach students about stars, nebulae and galaxies and how they emit light at different wavelengths.
Gr 5-12 Day
6. Building a Scale Model Solar System
Students create a scale model Solar System using spheres of different radii and compare and constrast the relative sizes of the planets. They also walk a path through the fields surrounding the observatory illustrating the relative spacing of the planets.
Gr K-6 Day
7. Making a Sun Clock
Students create a simple sun dial, which they can take home with them, and learn how to use it to measure time. 
Gr 3-8 Day
8. Exploring the Yearly Motion of the Sun
Students build simple demonstration tool that allows them to explore how the altitude of the Sun during the course of a year.
Gr 5-HS Day
9. Exploring Moon Phases
Students use hands-on demos to explore why the Moon's phases change during the course of the 28 day lunar cycle.  In an additional activity, students can explore why each different phase of the moon rises and sets at a different time of day.
Gr K-5 Needs a Dark Location
10. Making a Comet
Lead by an instructor, students create a comet out of dry ice and dirt and discuss the life cycle of comets and the formation of the solar system.
Gr K-6 Day
11. Make a Comet Motion Flip Book
Students cut out images of comet on its orbit around the Sun and create a flip book to show its motion and how the direction of its tail changes.
Gr 3-6 Day
12. Experimenting with Craters
Students experiment with cratering by dropping rocks of various sizes from various heights into a vat of flour and measuring size of the craters produced.  
Gr 3-5 Day
13. Searching for Meteorites
Students will simulate meteorite impacts and debris dispersal using water balloons filled with flour and colored pebbles.  
Gr 4-6 Day
14. Physics of Light
Students explore the properties of light, learning about wavelength, color and energy of photons, emisison line spectra, the absorption spectrum of the Sun, and the Doppler shift. 
Gr 8-HS, but can be adapted for Gr 5-7

Night or Day if a dark room is available