Teacher's Guide for ODYSSEYTM Cosmic Showers
Exploring the Issue: Cosmic Showers
Think Tank (Discussion Starters to Use Before Reading the Magazine):
"The Night It Snowed Fire," pg. 6
"November 17, 1966: Night of Meteors," pg. 11
- This one-act play dramatizes the Leonid meteor storm of 1833. Yale professor Denison Olmsted quells the fears of his neighbors and establishes the field of meteoritics.
- Science in a historical context, Interpretation
"Leonid Lottery," pg. 18
- The author's first-person account of the 1966 Leonid storm illustrates the origin and periodicity of meteor storms. A sidebar profiles two scientists who correctly predicted the source and frequency of the phenomenon. Another sidebar explains how perspective makes meteor storms appear to emanate from a point.
- Vocabulary, Inductive reasoning
"Strange Meteors," pg. 24
- The specter of Giovanni Schiaparelli teaches a brother and sister about Leonid displays. He explains why predicting the date and magnitude of meteor storms is difficult.
- Inductive reasoning, Mathematical analysis
"Threats from a Stormy Sun," pg. 28
- "Lazy," "erratic," and "screaming" describe accounts of mysterious observations of meteors. A sidebar examines the problem of "space junk" - scattered space debris. Send your suggestions to ODYSSEYTM.
- Historical anecdotes, Application
"What's Up (Planet Watch and Backyard Observations)," pg. 34
- Solar disturbances such as sunspots, flares, and coronal mass ejections will increase at the start of the millennium. These solar storms might affect telecommunications as well as weather on Earth, and astronauts in space.
- Cause/effect, Mathematical analysis
"Exotic Showers," pg. 40
- The Orionid meteor shower from Halley's comet is coming. Also on tap this month are all five visible planets.
- Observation, Following directions
- It's business as usual, as all sorts of things precipitate down from the sky onto (and through) the Earth's surface. Cosmic-ray showers, neutrino showers, x-rays, and gamma-ray showers are some of the more exotic arrivals from space.
- Vocabulary, Cause/effect
Classroom "Syzygy": Talk, Connect, Assess
- Has anyone seen a meteor? A comet? An aurora? What we see in the nighttime sky can be both beautiful and dangerous. Discuss examples of such phenomena, and list what the students already know about them.
- Discuss examples of astronomical events that have been used in movies or on television shows. ("Deep Impact" and "Armageddon" are only the most recent examples.) What portion of these films was informational on the topic?
Pg. 6 -- "November 17, 1966: Night of Meteors"
Far Out!: Moving Beyond the Magazine
pg. 28 -- "Threats from a Stormy Sun"
- Talk It Over:
- What were some of the things people believed to be true about meteors that have proved incorrect? Add to this any stories or misconceptions students may have heard from friends or others. Compare these misconceptions with what we now know to be true.
- What conditions must be in place for this November's Leonids to produce a magnificent meteor storm? What can go wrong?
- Mathematics & History: Construct a simple formula for determining dates of possible Leonid meteor storms in history. Use these dates to find other eyewitness accounts of this phenomenon.
- Visual Arts: Review the description of a meteor storm (adding similar descriptions from other sources, if possible). From this eyewitness information, complete a sketch of how this November's Leonids might look. Keep the drawings for review if your class plans a Meteor Madness Party (pg. 16).
- Language Arts: Pretend you have just witnessed a Leonid meteor storm. Write a letter to a friend who missed it, describing not only what you saw, but your feelings before and during the storm.
- Student Assessment:
- In a two-paragraph essay, describe the connection between meteors and comets, and show how a knowledge of comets helped Giovanni Schiaparelli discover this connection.
- Write a dialogue with the Greek philosopher Aristotle. He will explain his ideas about meteors, and you will explain the views of modern science.
- Talk It Over:
- What is a magnetic field? (Research this question in a general science reference if necessary.) How does the Sun's magnetic field affect the formation of solar spots and solar flares, and how does Earth's magnetic field protect us from these flares?
- What effects do sunspots and solar magnetic storms have on Earth (both known and theoretical), and what precautions might we take against them?
- Graphic Design: Design a version of the International Space Station that will be protected from solar flares and storms. Be ready to explain how your additions to the space station will protect the people and experiments within.
- Sociology: What if you knew that a period of very quiet solar activity was coming. Since this might initiate a global "Little Ice Age," what should we do to prepare? Consider lifestyles, agriculture, fuel usage, and anything else that might be affected. You can either limit your suggestions to the United States, or attempt to prepare the rest of the world, as well.
- Language Arts: Gather photographs of solar flares, solar prominences, and auroras. Try to describe one of these photographs in a poem, using the tools of simile, metaphor, and personification. Your poem can be either rhymed or unrhymed.
- Student Assessment:
- Describe the step-by-step process by which a sunspot might become a solar flare and later a magnificent aurora. Perhaps illustrate your chronology.
- Should we send astronauts on a mission to Mars during the coming peak in the sunspot cycle, or should we wait 11 years for a quieter solar period? Organize your reasons and present in the form of a debate.
"Twinkle, twinkle, meteor shower,"
Whole-Class Collaborative Project: Create a children's book on the topic of meteors. Consider that the children are ages 5-7, and would probably be afraid of meteors. As you explain all about meteors and meteor showers, make sure you calm the children's fears. Illustrate your book as well. When complete, consider donating it to an elementary classroom in your district.
"You're raining down a thousand an hour."
Community Connection: Have students, in pairs, canvass the community looking for first-hand accounts of sightings of meteor showers, comets, and other astronomical observations. Collect and publish these anecdotes. Write one version of the collected accounts for the local newspaper and send copies of the complete collection to local libraries and classrooms.
"I only wish from where I sit,"
Small-Group Whole-Class Project: Research historical accounts of meteor and comet observations, as far back as the first recorded sightings of a comet by the Chinese in 2296 B.C. Gather these accounts together and prepare a time line, showing our growing knowledge of these astronomical phenomena. Display your time line in school.
"That I had Brought My Catcher's Mitt."
Large-Group Follow-up Activity: Have groups of 4 or 5 students select an incident from the class time line (above). They should then write a brief play depicting that incident. The plays should be accurate both in astronomical fact and in the depiction of the people of the time. Present these plays in chronological order to form a "living history."