Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA
Although this is a blatant "shoop" job, there are often slow news days where broadcast media outlets decide to air news on astronomically mundane events.
Take for example, the summer solstice, which happens in late June every year. And on a particularly slow news day in late June 2006.
Worse yet is when they interview people on the street about the summer solstice...or even so-called "experts" to talk about the astronomy behind the news.
Can you do better? Let's get to making you "experts" on cycles of the sun!
(This is the third Astronomy 210L laboratory at Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA. This course is a one-semester, optional adjunct laboratory to the Astronomy 210 introductory astronomy lecture, taken primarily by students to satisfy their general education science transfer requirement.)
Since the procedure for this laboratory is rather straightforward, where students gather data on the position and motion of the sun, and support/refute statements using evidence from this data, we'll spend time here instead talking about what Bill Nye ("The Science Guy") likes to describe as "PBJ"--the "passion, beauty, and joy"--of the sun's cycles.
Consider what the sun does every day. Or have you?
Ever notice when the sun just happens to be rising (or setting) right along the road you happen to be driving? And if you drive along this road regularly over the course of a year, how often does this inconvenience/safety hazard occurs?
Have you ever seen the green flash during the sunset? Try and look for it the next time the view of the horizon is clear at sunset.
And since the sunrise and sunset times shift over the course of the year, this affects the number of daylight and night hours.
Ever get the "winter blues?" Seasonal affective disorder ("SAD") is the clinical depression caused the lack of sunlight during long winter nights.
Instead of medicating this condition, exposure to a solar-spectrum light is an effective treatment for SAD. Or maybe just spend more time in a tanning booth.
Starting this laboratory, you'll be formulating answerable research questions.
Work together in groups during the exploration portion of this laboratory...
...intended to get you familiarized with the heavens-above.com interface.
After completion of your exploration and evidence-based arguments, brainstorm as a group to come up with a research question that can be answered by gathering evidence from heavens-above.com.
After coming to a consensus, write your group's research question on a whiteboard, and then have your instructor approve it, which may involve broadening/narrowing the scope your question. Leave the edits (don't erase) and display your final whiteboard research question for other groups to read and critique.
Don't worry about answering your research question this week. In next week's laboratory you will formulate another research question, after which you can gather evidence for in order to answer.
- Tim Slater, Stephanie Slater, Daniel J. Lyons, Engaging in Astronomical Inquiry, W.H. Freeman & Company, New York, 2010,
http://www.whfreeman.com/newcatalog.aspx?disc=Astronomy+%26+Physics&course=Introduction+to+Astronomy&isbn=1429258608, pp. 13-22.