Lifecycle of stars

Have you ever wondered what happens to the different stars in the night sky as they get older? This activity lets you explore the life-cycle of stars and is linked directly to Secondary School curriculum on this topic.

Paper-based Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram (age 12-16)

An introductory activity for students to create their own Hertzspring-Russell diagram based on real stars. After being assigned a star, they cut out a circle of coloured paper (size related to radius) and place them on a pre-prepared plot. The result can be laid out on a table, or stuck onto a wall or whiteboard.

There are additional resources on the LCO Star in a Box page, including a summary and walkthrough of a similar session.

Steffan-Boltzman Law (16-18)

Using data about stars above , it is possible to explore the Steffan-Boltzmann Law. Students need to convert the luminosity and radius into SI units, and then calculate emissive power (power/unit area). Plotting that against temperature (on a log-log) plot, allows them to construct their own Steffan-Boltzmann law.

Star in a Box

Star in a Box Screenshot
Star in a Box is an interactive webapp which animates stars with different starting masses as they change during their lives. Some stars live fast-paced, dramatic lives, others change very little for billions of years. The webapp created by Las Cumbres Observatory and Cardiff University astronomers (with funding support from a public engagement grant from STFC and the National Science Academy of Wales), allows students to visualize the changes in mass, size, brightness and temperature of stars for all these different stages.

Resources for Lessons Based on Star in a Box

Here we provide some materials for teachers directly linked to the Lifecycle of Stars topic, to use Star in a Box in the classroom including powerpoint files, worksheets and cover sheets for Schemes of Work. These materials have been created with local teachers (with thanks to undergraduate student Megan Davies) to link directly to the curriculum.

Excel files

The files below allow the Star in a Box data to be studied and analysed in Microsoft Excel.

There are two student versions, both of which require the students to plot the graphs (instructions are provided within the files). One has additional columns of data already present, for the purposes of studying the Stephan-Boltzmann Law and energy conversion rate, while the other will require the students to calculate the variables (instructions provided). The teacher version has the graphs plotted.

Logger Pro files

SIAB_LoggerPro_screenshot-1

 

The files below contain the data from the simulations used in “Star in a Box”, which can be used as an alternative to analysis in Microsoft Excel. They will open in Logger Pro, commercial software which is freely available to schools which participate in the Inspiring Science Education project. Using Logger Pro, students can easily plot graphs, calculate additional values, analyse the data, and conduct their own investigations.

There are two student versions, both of which require the students to plot the graphs (instructions are provided within the files). One has additional columns of data already present, for the purposes of studying the Stephan-Boltzmann Law and energy conversion rate, while the other will require the students to calculate the variables (instructions provided). The teacher version has the graphs plotted

SIAB_LoggerPro_screenshot-2

 

Curriculum links

AQA GCSE Physics P2.6.2 Nuclear Fusion
Edexcel GCSE Physics P7.4 The Sun, the stars and their surroundings
OCR GCSE Physics A P1 Topic 3 Waves and the Universe
OCR GCSE Physics B P2h The Big Bang
WJEC GCSE Physics Physics 3.5 Origin of the Chemical Elements
AQA A Level Physics A Unit 5
Unit 5A
Module 3.5.2 Nuclear Energy
Module A.1.3 Classification of Stars
AQA A Level Physics B Unit 1
Unit 5
Module 3.1.2 From Quarks to Quasars
Module 3.5.3 Energy from the nucleus
Edexcel A Level Physics Unit 5 Module 5.6 Astrophysics and Cosmology
OCR A Level Phyics Unit G485 Module 5.3.4 Nuclear fission and fusion
Module 5.5.1 Structure of the Universe
WJEC A Level Physics Unit PH2 Module 2.5 Using Radiation to Investigate Stars

Other resources

There are additional resources on the LCO Star in a Box page, including a summary and walkthrough of the session.

 

Star in a Box is also available on astroEDU: Gomez, E., 2013, Star in a Box: High School, astroEDU, 1302 (doi:10.14586/astroedu.1302)