Pencil & Paper Activities

Part 1 // De-Coding Starlight
Activity: From Pixels to Images

Grade levels: middle school
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The Scenario
You have just discovered a brilliant new supernova remnant using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The Director of NASA Deep Space Research has requested a report of your results in her office in 45 minutes. Unfortunately, your computer crashed fatally while you were creating an image of the supernova remnant from the numerical data and you also lost a small amount of back up data. To fix the situation you will create, by hand, an image of the supernova remnant.

To do so, you will use raw (or unprocessed) data from the Chandra satellite. Additionally, you will prepare a written explanation of your discovery and answer a few of the Director's questions.

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Educators: Activity Background & Webinar

NASA SpaceMath

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Understanding cosmic distance to a supernova remnant
Students work with a photograph to determine its scale and the time taken by light and matter to reach a specified distance.

 Grade: 6-8 /Topics: Scale drawings; unit conversion; distance = speed x time

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Rate of change of expanding debris for a supernova remnant
Using a millimeter ruler and a sequence of images of a gaseous shell between 2000 and 2005, students calculate the speed of the material ejected by Supernova 1987A.

 Grade: 6-9 | Topics: Measuring; Metric Units; speed=distance/time

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Chemical makeup of part of Cassiopeia A's atmosphere:
Students determine the mass of the carbon atmosphere of the neutron star Cas-A.

 Grade: 8-10 | Topics: Volume of spherical shell; mass = density x volume
Contact Us
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophisics
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Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Acknowledgements: Recoloring the Universe with Pencil Code was created by volunteers David Bau (developer of Pencil Code and a Google employee at the time), August Muench (astronomer for the American Astronomical Society), Kim Arcand (visualization lead for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory), and Sydney Pickens and Matthew Dawson (both computer science educators with Google CS First.). Further work has been developed with support from the Chandra X-ray Center, at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in Cambridge, MA. Recoloring the Universe is also supported by NASA with funding under contract NAS8-03060.

Chandra AAS CODE Google CS First Pencil Code