Investigation: Transit Tracks [PDF 1.43 MB]
How can we use algebra concepts and Newton’s third law to find planets in outer space that could be habitable?
As the Kepler Mission surveys our region of the Milky Way galaxy, it discovers hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets that are in or near what is called the habitable zone. As Kepler gathers light curve data from stars, it detects decreases in brightness indicating a planet passing in front of the star.
In this activity, students will investigate light curve data gathered by Kepler. They will use the data to determine the period, orbital distance and size of the planet. By using Newton’s third law to find orbital distance and drop in brightness to find planet size, students will compare these Kepler planets to planets in our own solar system.
Transit Tracks includes a background section titled “Account of Jeremiah Horrocks’ observations of the Transit of Venus.” This activity comes with educator and student editions. The educator edition has information on optional mathematics extensions possible for your classroom. The option of using an orrery to demonstrate a transit is recommended but optional.
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