Astronomy is science that will challenge your imagination. How many stars in a galaxy? How many galaxies in the known universe? How many strange worlds are out there on other planets, orbiting other stars, and what are they like? Is there life on planets besides Earth? The distances are mind-boggling; the numbers are immense. Explore more of the universe with these astronomy science and engineering projects.
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…
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Long (2-4 weeks)
Most of the materials are available in hardware or craft stores.
Average ($50 - $100)
Adult supervision is required. Use caution when using the box cutter, heat lamp, and laser pointer.
Have you ever wondered what causes the tides in Earth's oceans? In this astronomy project, you will discover the answer for yourself! You will investigate how the Sun and Moon control tides in Earth's oceans.
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…
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…
Would it surprise you to learn that no one knows the exact age of the universe? Astronomers have estimates, and as they gather increasingly precise data and measurements, they continue to refine those estimates to come up with more accurate estimates. In this project, you can look at data about stars in dense groups called globular clusters and come up with your own estimate for the minimum age of the universe. How closely will your estimate match those of other astronomers?
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Very Short (≤ 1 day)
Computer skills, including basic spreadsheet skills (such as Microsoft® Excel®)
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…
The movement of satellites is intriguing, but how do they orbit the way they do? Aerospace engineers run calculations and set up computer models to help them predict how satellites move in space, but in this astronomy science project, you will create a physical model with marbles, clay, and a cookie sheet to help you study how satellites move in space and learn from your observations.