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Fred G. Dale Planetarium

Science Lessons

Fred G. Dale Planetarium

Below are menus for the various science lessons (which can be made into age-appropriate mini- or full lessons) and fulldome shows.

Earth-Based Lessons

The Sistine Chapel: An interactive representation of the magnificent Sistine Chapel and all of its artwork. Simply amazing to see!

Earth as a System: Exploring the Earth as a whole system made up of five subsystems, each of which constantly interacts with the other four subsystems.

Earth’s Layered Structure: Describing Earth's layered structure in terms of physical and chemical properties, and to differentiate between Earth's two sources of internal heat.

Oceans and Continents: Identifying the distinguishing characteristics of oceanic and continental crust, and to describe the main physical features of the continents and the ocean basins.

Continental Drift: Recognizing how observation and supporting evidence are used to develop a testable scientific theory that satisfactorily describes and explains how a system works.

Seafloor Spreading and Paleomagnetism: Exploring how magnetic studies and age information provide evidence for seafloor spreading that explains why oceanic crust is younger than continental crust.

The Theory of Plate Tectonics: Understanding the Earth's crust is broken into a number of plates that are constantly in motion, and that they are interacting with one another in several distinct ways, thus producing Earth's main geological features.

Minerals: Exploring the properties and characteristics of minerals and to understanding that rock is composed of different minerals.

The Rock Cycle: Understanding the processes by which the three main rock type are formed, and to recognizing that rocks are continuously forming, changing, and reforming through the rock cycle.

Igneous, Sedimentary, and Metamorphic Rocks: Differentiating between the three main types of rock, and to describing how formation processes and conditions influence a rock's characteristics.

Weathering and Soil Formation: Exploring the mechanisms that break rock down into increasingly smaller fragments and recognizing that soil forms partly from weathered rock and partly from organic materials.

Shaping Earth’s Future: Understanding how internal and external processes shape Earth's surface and identifying the four agents of erosion.

Mass Movement: Defining mass movement and identifying different types of rapid and slow mass movement.

Water and Ice Landforms: Understanding that moving water and ice can shape the surface of the Earth, and identifying a variety of landforms formed by water and ice.

Wind Landforms: Understanding that wind can erode surfaces and transport and deposit sediment, producing aeolian landforms, and identifying a variety of landforms formed by wind.

Earthquakes and Faults: Investigating the mechanisms that produce earthquakes.

Earthquakes and Waves: Exploring how earthquake waves travel through the Earth.

The Strength of Earthquakes: Examining how earthquake strength is determined, and how the exact location of an earthquake is determined through the analysis of seismic waves.

Seismic Waves and the Earth’s Interior: Investigating how the properties of seismic waves are used to reveal Earth's interior structure and composition.

Living with Earthquakes: Investigating the social and economic impacts of earthquakes and to distinguishing between damage caused directly by ground motions and damage from other earthquake-related causes.

Formation of Volcanoes: Investigating the mechanisms that produce volcanoes.

Types of Volcanoes: Exploring how the chemical composition of magma can determine the shape, behavior, and type of a volcano.

Living with Volcanoes: Understanding that volcanic eruptions are a significant natural hazard, but that they also offer substantial benefit to human society.

Age of the Earth: Investigating how fossils, rock layers and radioactive dating are used to determine the age of the Earth and comparing and contrasting the use of relative and absolute dating methods.\

Geologic Timescale: Understanding the scale on which geologic time is measured and broken down and understanding how units of time correspond to major changes in Earth's life-forms and landmasses.

Catastrophic Events and Mass Extinction: Understanding how catastrophic events have long-term effects on life and the environment.

Earth’s Future: Hypothesizing that the position of the continents will continue to change over geological time and recognizing the possible causes for the end of the Earth.

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 & 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 & 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 & 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 & 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.

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