Education and Outreach Manager Ingrid McCarthy has developed a new ASTRO 3D learning activity for the April YMCA Space Squad participants, based on spectra and how ASTRO 3D astronomers use spectrographs in their research.

April 2018 Space Squad crew

The Space Squad were having a “hands-on” day and we were approached to develop an activity that explained ASTRO 3D research. Given the results from the GALAH survey have just been released, Ingrid thought it would be a great topic to build a learning activity around.

First, the kids (aged 12-15) learned about the electromagnetic spectrum and how we see various spectra from the visible light portion through prisms and diffraction gratings.

Then the kids had the opportunity to build their very own spectroscope. We used the excellent model developed by Ron Bradbury from University of New England Physics department using a cardboard template and a holographic diffraction grating sheet from Edmund Optics.

They are designed to be used with your mobile phone camera and you can see the results we got when we looked at an incandescent globe, a fluorescent light, a sodium gas tube and a mercury gas tube.

The kids were suitably impressed at what they were able to see!

From top left – spectra from incandescant light bulb, fluorescent light, sodium gas tube, mercury gas tube

And then they learnt about how the Anglo-Australian Telescope at AAO has a high-tech multi-fibre high-resolution HERMES instrument attached, as is collecting spectra for 360 stars at a time as part of the GALAH survey and how our researchers are going to be able to collect petabytes worth of data in 3d data cubes, which will help them understand the origins of stars in our Milky Way and how our galaxy formed and how it continues to evolve.

The feedback from the Space Squad kids was really positive – they learned about something most of them had never heard about before, were amazed at the secret “hidden” spectra around them and were really interested to link that with ASTRO 3D research!

Ingrid plans to make that activity available as a downloadable educational resource and curriculum-linked lesson plan (the first of many!).