Wayne State College

Fred G. Dale Planetarium

Science Lessons

Fred G. Dale Planetarium

Below is a list of various astronomy lessons (which can be made into age-appropriate mini- or full lessons) and fulldome shows.

Space-Based Lessons

Current Night Sky: A tour of what’s in the current daytime and nighttime sky, including planets, constellations, moon phase, meteor showers, and any other timely celestial object or event.

The Day and Night Cycle: Understanding the daily motion of the Sun, Moon, and stars, and how the rotation of the Earth produces this motion.

The Year and Seasons: Understanding the annual motion of the Sun and stars, and how this motion is related to the mechanics of the seasons.

The Moon: Investigating the motion and appearance of the Moon, including: synchronous motion; tides; impacts and maria; and origin of the Moon.

Phases of the Moon: Understanding the orbit of the Moon around the Earth, and how this motion produces the different appearances of the Moon throughout the “moon”th.

Eclipses: Learning the types of eclipses, understanding how eclipses occur, and why they don’t occur every month.

Overview of the Solar System: Understanding the basic shape and motion of the solar system, and a brief review of objects in the solar system, including: the planets; Sun; asteroids; comets; and dust.

Size and Scale of the Solar System: Understanding a proper scale for the solar system and defining the astronomical unit (AU).

Planets of the Solar System: A detailed look at the planets of the solar system, including: similarities and differences; sizes; compositions; magnetic fields; moons; surface features; and space probes.

Motions of the Planets: Understanding the general and specific motions of the planets around the Sun, and how gravity plays a role in these motions.

Moons of the Solar System: Exploring and comparing the over 170 known moons in the solar system, including Titan with its unique atmosphere, and Earth's moon which formed as a result of a collision between a young Earth and another planetary body about half the size of the Earth.

Asteroids: Investigating the composition and location of asteroids within the solar system, and how asteroids help with a history of the solar system.

Comets and Meteors: Investigating the composition and location of comets within the solar system, how a comet’s tail is formed, and how comets are connected to meteor showers.

Near Earth Objects: A detailed look at the objects in the solar system that cross Earth’s orbit and pose a risk to Earth, and how space technology helps us detect these bodies.

Finding Your Way Around the Sky: Learning about constellations around the world, and how to: find the Big Dipper and Polaris; use Polaris to find north; use Polaris to determine latitude; measure angles in the sky; and use the Big Dipper to find other constellations.

Constellations and Star Lore: Investigating how the stars were the original clock, calendar, and compass, and a brief history of various star names and lore from different cultures.

Seasonal Constellations: Understanding why different constellations are seen at different times of the year, and why certain stars remain in the night sky all year long.

The Zodiac: Understanding the origin of the Zodiac and using these constellations to understand the difference between astrology and astronomy, pseudoscience and science.

The Sun as a Source of Energy: Understanding how the Sun produces energy, and investigating how this energy is responsible for the growth of plants, wind, ocean currents, and the water cycle.

Solar Weather: Learning about various types of solar weather, including: magnetic storms; sunspots; flares; prominences; and the solar wind.

Formation of the Solar System: Investigating how the Sun, like other stars, was formed from a cloud of gas and dust, and how the planets were created at the same time as the Sun by the same physical processes.

Solar Neighborhood: Understanding the vast distances between the stars, learning the nearest stars to the Sun, and defining the light-year (ly).

Stars: Learning that stars have a life cycle, and similarities and differences of stars in the galaxy, including: composition; temperature; age; brightness; and size.

The Milky Way Galaxy: A detailed look at the Milky Way galaxy, including: composition; size; shape; and location of the Sun in the galaxy.

The Universe: Investigating the major visible components of the universe, including galaxies, gas, and dust, the size and scale of the universe, and the origin of the universe (the Big Bang).

Origin of the Universe: Investigating the Big Bang theory, the redshift of galaxies, and the cosmic microwave radiation in attempt to answer the questions: What is the origin of the universe and what will be its fate?

Tools of the Astronomers: Learning about different astronomical instruments and techniques used by astronomers, including: telescopes; spectroscopes; interferometry; parallax; and Doppler shifts.

Coordinate Systems: Learning about the different coordinate systems used in astronomy, including the local altitude-azimuth and celestial right ascension-declination systems.

Analemmas: Understanding what is an analemma and how analemmas would appear on different planets and moons within the solar system.

Circumpolar constellations: Understanding why some constellations are in the night sky all year long, and why these constellations differ depending on someone’s latitude.

Mars Hoax: Discrediting the often viral assertions that “Mars will be as large as the Moon” at certain dates and times by better understanding the motions of the planets, focusing on the Earth and Mars.

Mercury’s Orbit: A detailed investigation into to the peculiar orbit of Mercury, and how Einstein’s general relativity helped explain it.

Precession of Earth’s Axis: Understanding how the Earth’s rotational axis wobbles like a top, how the Moon minimizes this wobble, and the periodicity of this motion.

Roemer’s Method: Understanding how Ole Roemer was able to determine a value for the speed of light by carefully measuring the motion of the Jupiter and its closest moon Io.

Scorpio’s Claws: Learning about the Zodiac and how Libra became a constellation among this “zone of animals.”

Stonehenge: A brief history of Stonehenge and the different astronomical events that Stonehenge is purported to help track.

Boy Scout Astronomy Badge: This comprehensive show includes coverage of a significant portion of the requirements of the Boy Scout Astronomy Merit Badge.

Planet Locations: Learning how, by simply observing the positions of the planets in the sky just after sunset, to plot their positions in their orbits around the Sun.

Timekeeping: Understanding sidereal days, hour angle, sidereal time, local apparent solar time, local mean solar time, and time zones.

Eclipsing Binaries: Exploring the mysteries of binary systems, including their light curves and peculiar orientations.

Finding the Ecliptic: Learning how to locate the ecliptic at any time of year.

Halley’s 1910 Ride: Journeying around the Sun on Halley's comet!

Kepler’s Second Law: Learning about the principles behind Kepler's second law of planetary motion (also known as the Law of Areas).

Lunar Librations: Investigating the commonly misunderstood phenomenon of librations (the "wobbles" the Moon makes through the month).

Lincoln Almanac Trial: Learning how Lincoln's most famous case as a trial lawyer was based upon the position of the Moon and how its extraordinary circumstances for the night of a murder were only recently shown that Lincoln was telling the truth in the defense of his client!

Stellar Sizes: Understanding the sizes of stars from white dwarfs to red supergiants!

Speed of Light: Using a time-variable radio sphere to better understand the speed of light on the scale of astronomical distances.

U.S. History of Boston: Discussing some of the astronomical occurrences during the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and Paul Revere's ride.