Archive for November, 2011

Counting Lunar Craters

We use maps to get us to places that we have not been to before. They help us to reach an unseen area in ease. One of the most unexplored areas would have to be the moon. Not that we will be driving the family car to the moon very soon, but it could come to that sooner than you think. The map of the moon is an unfinished business and could make an ideal science fair project.

Of course counting all the lunar craters would be a very time consuming project so it would make sense to narrow down the scope of the project somewhat. There are two options here that you can use. In the first case you can count the lunar craters in a specific section of the moon. In the second case you can stick to counting lunar craters of a certain fixed diameter on the moon.

In either case you would have to get a number of lunar surface photographs to complete the science fair project. The Consolidated Lunar Atlas is a good source of such photos and a lot more useful information. If you look at the NASA images provided on their website online, you will be able to get some good data.

Once you collect all the data you will need to design histograms to display your findings. These will be the crux of your science fair project and must be drawn well. Certain sites would be able to help you create professional looking graphs for charts. Have fun counting the craters.

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Photography and the night sky

If you have done the science project in the last blog post you already have the ideal location for star gazing all mapped out for the project. For an unusual science fair project you could elect to look for the dimmest star that you can find. The usual rule is that the brighter a star appears the larger it is and the closer it will be to the planet Earth.

To hunt for the star that is the most far away can be a real challenge as the dim star light is usually the most difficult to measure in terms of apparent magnitude. That is the measurement used to showcase the brightness of a star. This would not be a science project for beginners as some  detailed calculations will be part of the project.

Also there will be a need to utilize a digital camera to take photographs of different sections of the night sky to find the dimmest stars. Then these specific stars would have their brightness measured to determine which amongst them is the one that you seek. Histograms of the snapshots taken would also have to be created to show the magnitude of the star.

The project would involve careful record keeping and a great deal of dedication. There is also a pre requisite to have a fairly good idea about what the night sky actually looks like. It would be a great science fair project if all aspects were taken care of.

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Finding the right location for star gazing

Any number of interesting science fair projects can be based on astronomy. The main challenge to students based in urban areas is the fact that it is difficult to spot the stars at night due to the city lights in the night time. There was an interesting project undertaken worldwide some years ago when everyone on the planet switched off their lights at the same time to counteract this light pollution.

The correct term for this light pollution is skyglow.  For any star based project to be successful you need to find the right place for observation to counteract this skyglow. In some areas the stars can be seen but not too clearly. This is not the best location to base a science experiment where you are trying to measure the intensity of light from different stars.

In such a case you could scope out other locations which would be more ideal. If your town has a telescope in the local observatory which is powerful enough, you could seek permission to make use of it for your project. Or you could modify your project by trying to find out which locations in the city you can view the maximum stars from.

You can pick five spots that are distributed all over the city and now map the most stars in each location. Stick with identifying about ten to fifteen constellations so that it does not get too complicated. Now base the science fair project on which is the ideal location for star gazing based on the place where the maximum constellations are visible easily.

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Skyglow and how it stops you from seeing the stars

If you are interesting in star gazing and are working on a science fair project that involves night time observation you may have already encountered skyglow. This is the glow in the night time sky which comes from lights in the city. It is to be thought of as light pollution, which does not allow you to get a clear view of the night sky.

So how do you beat skyglow and still do your project? Well the obvious answer is that you take your night time star gazing project out of the urban area into a more out in the country area. That way the only lights that interfere with the viewing of your sky will be the ones that you are using on your camping trip.

This may not always be quite conducive to your daily routine. So there is another another solution. Its based on measuring the skyglow and then working out the right location to study the night sky from. You could just have to head out a few miles out into a semi urban area to see that the skyglow goes down enough for you to complete your star gazing project with ease.

To measure the skyglow you can use the Bortle Dark Sky Scale. This will need some basic familiarity with the concept of the night time sky for it to work for you. So study up on that before hand and get an adult with this specialized knowledge to help you out with the science fair project.

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Just how soon does night fall after sunset?

You must have noticed that even after the sun sets the sky does not get dark right away. The reason for this is the curve of the Earth. The rays of light continue to come through the atmosphere even after technically the sun has set. So have you ever wondered just how soon does it become pitch dark after sunset?

Here is an interesting science experiment that can be done.  You will need to measure the time from when the sunsets to the time it becomes totally dark. This period of semi light is also known as twilight. It has nothing to do with Bella and her favorite vampire, its just the term from which the saga took its name.

So how does one measure twilight and make a science project out of it? You will have to take the length of time that it takes to turn day into night at different times during the year. You can start with measuring twilight for a week each month. Then take the average of the week for that month’s twilight duration.

Repeat the process each month and at the end of the year you will have the duration of twilight in each month. Now you can get the yearly average figure as well. You can make charts with graphs showing the 12 month readings for the duration of twilight in the year for the display board. An interesting and interactive science project.

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