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Astronomy Project Ideas

Project Idea
thumbnail Can you imagine designing and building a space telescope the size of a tennis court? Believe it or not, that is someone's job! Engineers are hard at work on the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST. This telescope has the potential to enable astronomers to see light from when the Universe was first formed. No one knows what amazing discoveries this might lead to. However, to make the telescope work properly, engineers have to overcome a lot of challenges. In this science project, you can… Read more
Phys_p082
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Time Required Long (2-4 weeks)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Most of the materials are available in hardware or craft stores.
Cost Average ($50 - $100)
Safety Adult supervision is required. Use caution when using the box cutter, heat lamp, and laser pointer.
Project Idea
thumbnail Do you live someplace where you get to experience the full glory of all four seasons? If so, you know well the heady blossoms and dramatic skies of spring; the long, sun-drenched days of summer; the trees shaking in crimson and gold in fall; and the sparkling, brittle snows of winter. But you might not know why we have these seasons, over and over again, in a cycle as predictable as the rising and setting of the Sun. The reasons for the seasons are surprising and have to do with Earth's tilt… Read more
Astro_p033
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Time Required Very Short (≤ 1 day)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety No issues
Project Idea
Make a pinhole projector (see Measuring the Diameter of the Sun and the Moon). Use the pinhole to project an image of the Sun onto a wall or a piece of paper. Do you notice any dark spots on the projected image? Trace the projected image and count the dark spots. Use your pinhole projector to make images of the Sun at the same time of day for several consecutive days. How does the pattern of spots change? Can you use your data to figure out how fast the Sun rotates? Sunspot activity rises… Read more
Astro_p027
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Project Idea
You can measure the diameter of the Sun (and Moon) with a pinhole and a ruler! All you need to know is some simple geometry and the average distance between the Earth and Sun (or Moon). An easy way to make a pinhole is to cut a square hole (2–3 cm across) in the center of a piece of cardboard. Carefully tape a piece of aluminum foil flat over the hole. Use a sharp pin or needle to poke a tiny hole in the center of the foil. Use the pinhole to project an image of the Sun onto a wall or piece… Read more
Astro_p026
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Project Idea
thumbnail You've heard of gold mining and coal mining, but think outside the box...or the planet...what about asteroid mining? Scientists, engineers, and business people believe asteroid mining is feasible, and they are in the beginning stages of long-term plans to mine asteroids for valuable resources during space missions. You don't want to miss out on all the fun; in this science project, you will come up with your own scientific plan for an asteroid mining company. We will help get you started by… Read more
Astro_p038
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Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability This science project requires a computer with internet access.
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety No issues
Project Idea
thumbnail The Milky Way is the edgewise view of our home galaxy, a disk made up of billions of stars. The Sun resides on one of the spiral arms of the disk, 30,000 light-years from the thick hub of the galaxy. The actual center, with a black hole 3-4 million times the Sun's mass, is hidden by dust clouds in space. In this astronomy science fair project, you will use astronomical data to locate the center of this galaxy. Read more
Astro_p032
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Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Access to the Internet is required.
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety No issues
Project Idea
Use your Internet sleuthing skills to learn about solar system objects. Create a table of measurements of moons and asteroids in order to determine if there is a size threshold for roundness. A good source of information would be an online guide such as The Nine Planets (Arnett, W.A., 2006). You'll find information about planetary satellites, including dimensions and accompanying pictures. From the pictures, classify the satellites and asteroids according to how round they are. Can you think of… Read more
Astro_p025
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Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Project Idea
Here's an astronomy project idea from Dr. James Pierce, a professor in the Astronomy Program at Minnesota State University, Mankato: "Determine the length of twilight at different times of the year by observing the time at which certain bright stars first appear and comparing with the sunset time. Beware of variations due to stars appearing at different altitudes. Try using Polaris as a standard. Also note the time at which automatic streetlights turn on. Determine how soon after sunset stars… Read more
Astro_p024
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Time Required Very Long (1+ months)
Project Idea
thumbnail Have you ever looked up at the stars at night and wondered how fast they were moving or how far away they were? By studying how the brightness of a star changes with distance, you can answer those questions. In this astronomy science project, you'll create a model of starlight and use a light meter to discover the key relationship between brightness and distance. Read more
Astro_p034
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Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Low ($20 - $50)
Safety No issues
Project Idea
Globular clusters, compact groups of about a million stars that move around together in galaxies, are among the oldest objects found in the universe. Since they are found in most galaxies and since they've been around for so long, globular clusters have a lot to tell us about what the universe looks like now and how it got that way. Is our Milky Way Galaxy just like all the other galaxies out there? What are galaxies made of? What can we learn about the universe from looking at galaxies? … Read more
Astro_p016
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Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Prerequisites Computer skills, including basic spreadsheet skills (Excel for example)
Material Availability You will need a spreadsheet program which can open Excel files to do this science fair project.
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety No issues
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