Physical Astronomy – Definition of a New Way of Teaching

Definition of Physical Astronomy

Physical astronomy definition using Leonardo DaVinci's Vitruvian Man drawing surrounded by moon phase images
Vitruvian Man with Moon Phases

Physical Astronomy is a new way of teaching astronomy that emphasizes the human body and its relationship to other moving objects in space. The goal is to bring geometric and scientific awareness to a child’s everyday sky observations. Kids learn easily visible sky motions at a “kid’s eye level.”

The Sun does not move… we move

One of the first steps in Physical Astronomy is to forget you ever heard the words “Sunset” or “Sunrise.”  These words (while rife with history, beautiful in their own right, and descriptive) are scientifically wrong. These words obscure the truth of our trip around the Sun. We are on the Earth, the Earth is spinning; the Sun appears to be moving, but it is us moving. 

From the outset Physical Astronomy challenges you to reconsider long-held perceptions. It challenges you to trade them for curiosity, scientific thinking, and observation.

Foundations of Physical Astronomy

Physical Astronomy means learning basic astronomy concepts with a Kinesthetic approach: your body is on the Earth but traveling in space. While we are actually traveling in many directions at the same time the daily perception of our direction is of traveling “under the sun.” Through imagination and knowledge, you can see your place within the motions of the Earth, Sun, Moon, stars, and galaxies.

Science and the Scientific Method are the foundations of Physical Astronomy. Teaching methods, tools, and models scale Astronomy concepts to human size. Imagination transports us beyond our current understanding.

The Future of Physical Astronomy

I would like each child to get a little bit closer to understanding advanced but fundamental physical concepts like light speed, orbits, phases, star distance. The goal is to offer very early involvement with physics and motion. This early exposure to the idea of the speed of light can give a future adult a natural base of understanding.

For most of human existence we earthlings did not know that we lived on the surface of a giant sphere. My goal with this new way of teaching astronomy is to bring curious young minds fun, high-quality, experiential, developmentally tuned lessons for getting involved in the process of scientific discovery.

My intent is to build a strong and scientifically accurate conceptual foundation in a child’s mind. This will bring a passionate and articulate dedication to astronomy specifically, and science in general.

The next Halley, Herschel, Hubble, Einstein, or Hawking.

I have always been captivated by the sky. And I’ve come to realize that even though everyone has some knowledge of what’s “up there” (no matter how much absolute knowledge someone possesses) they always want to know more. The study of the sky is endless! There are so many ways to bring that sense of depth to more and more kids. Let’s continue so that we nurture the development of our next Halley, Herschel, Hubble, Einstein, or Hawking.

I have a big goal with my Physical Astronomy education programs: to encourage people to see the world from a new perspective and to transform them.

We do this by offering repeatable experiences – personal science experiences – that shape the way we perceive our particular place in the universe.

 

Moon Phase Emojis – A Review

Moon Phase Emojis – and other space emojis

Emoji designers created a nice range of astronomy emojis and space emojis.  My favorite emojis are the Moon Phase Emojis. Here is a listing of all of the space emojis as seen on Apple’s Mac “High Sierra” OS.

All of the astronomy and space themed emojis in one image
All of the astronomy and space themed emojis in one image

Space emojis to copy (these look different on each browser)

Here are the same emojis as shown in the image above, but shown as real emojis that can be selected individually and copied.

👩‍🚀 👨‍🚀 🌎 🌍 🌏

🌕 🌖 🌗 🌘 🌑 🌒 🌓 🌔

🌚 🌝 🌞 🌛 🌜 🌙 💫 ⭐ 🌟 ✨

💥 ☄ ☀ 🌈

🚀 🛰

🗺 🎑 🌅 🌄 🌠 🌇 🌃 🌌

📡 🔭

☪ ✡ 🔯

🔅 🔆 🌐 🌀 *️⃣ 🎴

♈ ♉ ♊ ♋ ♌ ♍ ♎ ♏ ♐ ♑ ♒ ♓

✳ ✴ ☾ 〰 ➰ ➿

Emoji Variations

Did you know that Emojis look different depending on which type of device you are seeing them on?

Here is what the Full Moon Emoji looks like on Apple Macs

The Full Moon emoji as seen on Mac Computers - 3d, yellow, cratered, and glowing
The Full Moon emoji as seen on Mac Computers.

And here is what it looks like on Microsoft PCs

The Full Moon emoji as seen on Mac Computers - flat, orange, spotted, cartoon.
The Full Moon emoji as seen on Windows PCs.

References

Emojipedia has a catalog of all the variations of emojis including the Full Moon Emoji

 

 

Galaxy Rise

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings

A still more glorious dawn awaits Not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise A morning filled with 400 billion suns The rising of the milky way.

The Sun rises. The Moon rises. Stars rise. The Galaxy rises – twice.

Each day the Earth rotates and sky objects (seem to) rise in the Eastern sky. The Sun, the Moon, the Stars, and the Galaxy rise at various times.

The Sun “rises” once-a-day at the start of the day.

The Moon “rises” once-a-day at different times of the day and night depending on the moon’s orbit around the Earth (its phase).

The Stars “rise” once-a-day – all night long, one after another and in groups.

The Milky Way Galaxy “rises” twice a day – once on its bright (center) side and then 12 hours later on its dim (outer arm) side.

We can orient our bodies to the rising of the Milky Way. And we can experience our daily movement as “plunging through” this flat disk of stars.

Continue reading “Galaxy Rise”

Super Moon December 3rd, 2017

Super Moon

The closest approach that the moon will make on its monthly orbit around the Earth coupled with a Full Moon. The December 3rd Super Moon is here!

Here is an image showing how the arrangement of the Moon’s “Perigee” with the Full Moon results in the Super Moon.

Supermoon arrangement of moon's orbit around the Earth
Schematic showing how the “Super Moon” happens and the change in apparent size of the moon. The Moon appears about 14% larger during a Super Moon event.

The Full Moon + Orbit at Perigee = Super Moon.

Walk to Mintaka

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings
Mistakable rises toward the zenith as you walk toward the equator
As you walk toward the equator, Mintaka appears to rise higher in the sky.

In this post we will learn how to use one bright star of Orion’s belt to visualize the Earth’s equator.

Mintaka is a Star in Orion’s Belt

When you look up at the winter sky in the northern hemisphere, Orion and his famous belt are impossible to miss. The belt is made up of three stars of equal brightness.

One of these stars is called Mintaka and it is a guidepost for finding the Earth’s equator in space. Continue reading “Walk to Mintaka”

Tilt Head to Tilt Earth

Physical Astronomy by Daniel CummingsTilt your head to tilt the earth and experi nice the seasons

Seasons are caused by a tilted Earth

Use this technique to understand how seasons happen on the Earth. The Earth is tilted. When the northern part (your forehead and eyes) tilts away from the Sun the season is winter. When the northern part tilts toward the Sun the season is summer.

The Earth is tilted as it spins daily – it is not straight up and down like a top, but more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa (if the tower could spin!). As it goes through its yearly orbit, the Sun hits the northern and then the southern parts of the Earth.

Tilt your head to tilt the Earth

In this model, when the northern part (your forehead and eyes) tilts away from the Sun the season is winter. When the northern part tilts toward the Sun the season is summer.

Did you like this season model? Any questions? Type in the comments to send me a message.

The Moon is Upside Down

The Moon is Upside Down

The moon is upside down (as seen from the Southern Hemisphere)
The moon as seen from the Southern Hemisphere. source: Wikipedia.

When you are in the southern hemisphere, the moon looks upside down.

When I came back to the US from living in Australia for 4 years, I published a poster with a picture of the moon on in and I placed it “upside down” – someone pointed it out and I looked at the moon and said “the moon is upside down.” This was true – in the Northern Hemisphere – but to people living in the Southern Hemisphere the moon appears “upside down.”

I was shocked, but the claim was true – in the Northern Hemisphere! But to Australians and other people living in places in the Southern Hemisphere the moon appears “upside down.”

 

Arms around the ecliptic

Learn to see the ecliptic

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings

Ecliptic Arms

The sun follows the same path through the sky every day.

Sun up. Noon. Sun down.

The sun starts the day in the east in the morning, rises high in the sky at noon, and settles down again in the west for a nap at night.

See the ecliptic

Here is an exercise to discover that path – the ecliptic.

Continue reading “Arms around the ecliptic”

Stars like ours – 9 bright “Life Stars”

Life Stars – Visible Exoplanets

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings

Life Star in the night skyA “Life Star” is a visible star that could host life. This is a name I came up with in February 2017 (around the time of the TRAPPIST announcement) to describe visible stars with confirmed planets orbiting in the habitable zone. “Life Star” is easier to say and explain. I hope it catches on! Continue reading “Stars like ours – 9 bright “Life Stars””

Stars in Your Eyes

Graphic showing text and milky way galaxy of stars. Stars end their trips in your eyes

The light of a star…

…no matter how long it has been traveling through space, ends its journey in your eye. The light hits your retina and is transformed into thought. As long as you let that star light stream into your view, the star itself lands in you and settles its motion.

When I was 17 years old I went on a weekend retreat run by the Christian Brothers near Melbourne, Australia. It was a weekend of spiritual teaching, introspection and reflection.

Saturday night, one of the other boys at the retreat surprised me. As we stood outside under the stars, he spoke in that matter-of-fact way typical of Australians.

Continue reading “Stars in Your Eyes”

A new star will appear in the sky in 2022

Binary star merge to form a new star - a star in a starAn amazing thing is about to happen! A Star in a Star will be born.

You  can witness the birth of a new star in the night sky.  The new Star already has a birthday: 2022!

According to scientists, the new star will form when two stars that are orbiting each other grow so close that they merge into one.

The new star will appear in the constellation Cygnus. You can see the approximate location marked by a red circle in the Stellarium screenshot here:

A screenshot of Stellarium showing the new star location under the constellation Cygnus's left wing

The image of the two blue stars on the home page of this Star in a Star site shows what scientists think it looks like now. This impressive video shows an artist’s rendering of the star merge.

In the pair, one star is larger than the other so in the end, there will be a new star…  A Star in a Star.