Star Light, Star Bright
Teacher Page: Lesson Plan


Goal / Purpose
Desired Learning Outcomes
New Vocabulary
General Misconceptions
Preparation Time
Execution Time
Physical Layout of Room
Procedure / Directions
Evaluation / Assessment
Follow-up Activities / Extensions
One Computer Classroom
Classrooms Without Computers
Home Schooler

  • Goal / Purpose:

    The purpose of this lesson is for students to acquire information about the electromagnetic spectrum and how its interpretation enables scientists to gather information about the universe. Star Light, Star Bright provides students with an interactive and flexible learning environment that allows students to follow their curiosity and to learn at their own pace.

  • Desired Learning Outcomes:

    1. Explain how light is a form of energy that travels in waves.
    2. Describe how electromagnetic radiation exists beyond what we can see with our eyes.
    3. Describe how different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum (such as ultraviolet, visible, infrared, radio) correspond to specific wavelengths and frequencies of electromagnetic waves.
    4. Explain the relationship between temperature and the peak color of emitted light.
    5. Show how the electromagnetic spectrum can be used to determine the temperature of stars.
    6. Describe how to estimate the temperatures of galaxies based on their color.

  • Prerequisites:

    Before attempting to complete this lesson, the student should:

    1. Have a general understanding of the visible light spectrum.
    2. Know how to do basic graphing skills.
    3. Be able to use a computer mouse to point and click on choices.
    4. Know that light can be reflected, refracted, or absorbed by an object.

    It might be helpful to survey the students background knowledge as it relates to these prerequisites in a number of ways before using the computer lesson. You might do this by:

    1. Organizing a general class discussion that reviews the key ideas about light and color.
    2. Performing a series of simple demonstrations and discussing how they show the key ideas about light, for example, using a diffraction grating to show the components of white light.
    3. Asking true or false questions based upon the "General Misconceptions" that are listed on these lesson plan pages.

  • New Vocabulary:

    1. amplitude
    2. constellation
    3. electromagnetic spectrum
    4. frequency
    5. gamma ray
    6. infrared
    7. intensity
    8. nanometer
    9. micrometer
    10. radiation
    11. radio
    12. star
    13. temperature
    14. visible spectrum
    15. wave
    16. wavelength
    17. x ray

  • General Misconceptions:

  • Preparation Time:

  • Execution Time by module:

    The amount of time needed to complete any of these modules will vary depending on such factors as the length of available teaching time and the number of computers to the number of students who need to use them. One possible way to jump start your lesson and eliminate the trial and error approach that is sometimes needed to become familiar with a new lesson, is to do one or a part of a module with the students as a directed activity using an overhead, a LCD, or TV monitor to project the lesson to the class. The following are estimated times:

  • Physical Layout of Room:

    Teachers may decide whether students work in small groups of two or three, or individually. No more than 3 students should share a computer in order to maximize learning. Adaptations can be made to accommodate classrooms with only a single computer with Internet access. These might include using an overhead projector with a LCD that projects the computer image on a screen or a hookup from a computer to a television monitor.

    You can also do the Star Light, Star Bright lesson off-line! Different software programs, available through commercial vendors, provide off-line access to the Internet. These programs allow you to save Web pages to your local hard drive. Using your Netscape browser you are able to open the Web pages locally to experience the lesson as if you were on the Internet. Using this option will deny students' access to the rest of the Web pages available on the World Wide Web.

  • Materials:

    This lesson requires a computer with a color monitor and Internet connection. The Web browser used must have at least the capability of Netscape's Navigator 4.0. For additional information read the Computer Needs section.

  • Procedure / Directions:

    This is a self-directed interactive computer activity. Students may work independently or in small groups to complete each lesson module. They will investigate different concepts related to the electromagnetic spectrum by examining relationships among wavelength, color, and temperature. Using what they have learned from the three modules "Catch the Waves," "Making Waves," and "Heating Up," students will be ready to do the final module "Stellar Encounters," where they determine the temperature of a variety of stars found in images from the Hubble Space Telescope and other sources.

  • Evaluation / Assessment:

    At the end of each of the modules, "Catch the Waves," Making Waves," and Heating Up," there is an activity called "What Do You Know?" that summarizes key lesson ideas. Also included is a more challenging level of thinking called "Beats Me-You Explain It." This activity asks the student a series of thought provoking application type of questions related to the concepts that were developed in the module. "Stellar Encounters" is an assessment module that bases its information on what has been learned in the other three modules. Here, the students are asked to apply their knowledge in a way that astronomers would use it to interpret the light received from distant stars and galaxies.

  • Solutions:



    Questions | Answers


    Questions | Answers


    Questions | Answers


    Section Question Answer
    Catch the Waves - 1 a / b / c
    - 2 a
    - 3 a
    - 4 a / b

    - 1 a / b / c
    - 2 a
    - 3 a
    - 4 a / b

    Making Waves - 5 a / b
    - 5 a / b
    Heating Up - 6 a / b / c
    - 7 a
    - 6 a / b / c
    - 7 a
    Stellar Encounters - 8 a / b
    - 8 a / b


  • Follow-up Activities / Interdisciplinary Connections:

    Students may be given new images and data found at the Space Telescope Science Institute home page. This could be shown directly to the class using an overhead projector and a LCD or television monitor. This information could also be printed out as a paper copy to be analyzed and compared to what they have learned about light and the electromagnetic spectrum in the "Star Light Star Bright" computer lesson. Picture images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope are also available at your closest NASA Educator Resource Center.

    Connections to other disciplines can be used to broaden classroom discussion of the general principles learned in Star Light, Star Bright.

  • One Computer Classroom:

    It is recommended that teachers project the images from the computer onto a classroom screen using a overhead LCD or television screen. To facilitate a more organized and predictable large group presentation and not encounter last minute glitches that can always occur when using a computer, the following are some suggestions you might want to consider. Bookmark a selected part of the lesson such as one of the modules that you wish to use and download it onto your hard disk. This will eliminate the inconvenience of unexpectedly going off the Internet. Another way to prepare is to print ahead of time selected parts of the lesson as paper copies. Possible choices to consider might include "Light Facts," "Brain Teasers," "What Do You Know," and "Beats Me-You Explain It." Students can use this information to do additional research on a question or topic area that interests them.

  • Classrooms Without Computers:

    Here are some suggestions:

    1. Teachers may print the "Light Facts," "Brain Teasers," "What Do You Know," and "Beats Me-You Explain It" sections in the Star Light, Star Bright lesson to make transparencies. Questions included in these sections can be used as introduction to the light and color unit or at the end as an assessment exercise.

    2. NASA has available FREE at your closest NASA Educator Resource Center a poster called: "The Electromagnetic Spectrum" which can be used as a teaching tool in the classroom.

    3. Classroom demonstrations that relate to the topic of light and color include:

      (1) using a diffraction grating to demonstrate that visible light can be separated into colors. Further exploration can be conducted using red and blue gel filters.
      (2) using a spectrum power supply and gas discharge tubes with diffraction grating to demonstrate that different gases produce different spectra.
      (3) attaching one of a rope to a door knob to create waves by moving one end of the rope up and down.

    4. If your school has one or more computers located outside your classroom, i.e. library, computer lab, students may experience the lesson individually or in small groups as a learning station or as a supplement to your light and color unit.

    5. Nowadays, many students have computers at home with access to the Internet. If that's the case with your students you may want to consider assigning sections of the Star Light, Star Bright lesson as homework.
  • Home Schooler:
  • This lesson is easily followed without additional teacher support if the prerequisites are met. Parents can preview the lesson and examine the teacher pages ahead of time. A wealth of information can be found at Hubblesite, the Hubble Space Telescope's website at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Here you can find background information on the telescope, pictures and news releases of past and present stories, education activities, and other science resources.

    More information for the home-schooled can be found at:

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