The Physics Front is a free service provided by the AAPT in partnership with the NSF/NSDL.

Detail Page
«

Detail Page

Star Spectra Science: Using Balloons and Buttons to Model Spectroscopy

written by
Rebecca Vieyra
published by
the American Association of Physics Teachers

This lesson blends physics and Earth science as students explore the spectra of stars using a physical model composed of balloons and buttons. It was inspired by "Balloons and Button Spectroscopy: A Hands-On Approach to Light and Matter", an article by Joseph Ribaudo, published in The Physics Teacher magazine. The lesson initiates with the task of finding wavelength (in nanometers) and corresponding energy (in eV) for each color in the visible spectrum. Next, students identify energy transitions and corresponding color for energy-level diagrams. In the next phase, they pop the balloons and sort buttons by color, plotting the color incidence on a histogram. They will then identify peak emission wavelengths for each balloon "star" and calculate an estimated surface temperature for each.

Star Spectra Science: Using Balloons and Buttons to Model Spectroscopy

Teacher's Guide: Star Spectra - Modifiable Word Version by Rebecca Vieyra
Printable Word version of the lesson plan with assessment. download 1852kb .docx
Published: January 30, 2017
Released under a CC Noncommercial license.
previous versions

Student Worksheet: Star Spectra by Rebecca Vieyra
Printable Student Guide for distribution in the classroom. download 1134kb .docx
Published: January 30, 2017
Released under a CC Share Alike license.

Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer (HS-PS4)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)

Use mathematical representations to support a claim regarding relationships among the frequency, wavelength, and speed of waves traveling in various media. (HS-PS4-1)

Earth's Place in the Universe (HS-ESS1)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)

Communicate scientific ideas about the way stars, over their life cycle, produce elements. (HS-ESS1-3)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Electromagnetic Radiation (PS4.B)

Electromagnetic radiation (e.g., radio, microwaves, light) can be modeled as a wave of changing electric and magnetic fields or as particles called photons. The wave model is useful for explaining many features of electromagnetic radiation, and the particle model explains other features. (9-12)

Atoms of each element emit and absorb characteristic frequencies of light. These characteristics allow identification of the presence of an element, even in microscopic quantities. (9-12)

The Universe and its Stars (ESS1.A)

The study of stars' light spectra and brightness is used to identify compositional elements of stars, their movements, and their distances from Earth. (9-12)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Patterns (K-12)

Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena. (9-12)

Scale, Proportion, and Quantity (3-12)

The significance of a phenomenon is dependent on the scale, proportion, and quantity at which it occurs. (9-12)

Systems and System Models (K-12)

When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models. (9-12)

Energy and Matter (2-12)

Energy drives the cycling of matter within and between systems. (9-12)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)

Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)

Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution. (9-12)

Developing and Using Models (K-12)

Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. (9-12)

Use a model to provide mechanistic accounts of phenomena. (9-12)

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)

Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. (9-12)

Use mathematical representations of phenomena to describe explanations. (9-12)

<a href="https://www.compadre.org/precollege/items/detail.cfm?ID=14318">Vieyra, Rebecca. "Star Spectra Science: Using Balloons and Buttons to Model Spectroscopy." College Park: American Association of Physics Teachers, 2017.</a>

R. Vieyra, Star Spectra Science: Using Balloons and Buttons to Model Spectroscopy, , 2017, <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14318&DocID=4677>.

Vieyra, R. (2017). Star Spectra Science: Using Balloons and Buttons to Model Spectroscopy. College Park: American Association of Physics Teachers. Retrieved August 2, 2021, from https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14318&DocID=4677

Vieyra, Rebecca. "Star Spectra Science: Using Balloons and Buttons to Model Spectroscopy." College Park: American Association of Physics Teachers, 2017. https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14318&DocID=4677 (accessed 2 August 2021).

Vieyra, Rebecca. Star Spectra Science: Using Balloons and Buttons to Model Spectroscopy. College Park: American Association of Physics Teachers, 2017. 2 Aug. 2021 <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14318&DocID=4677>.

@techreport{
Author = "Rebecca Vieyra",
Title = {Star Spectra Science: Using Balloons and Buttons to Model Spectroscopy},
Institution = {American Association of Physics Teachers},
Address = {College Park},
Month = {January},
Year = {2017}
}

%A Rebecca Vieyra %T Star Spectra Science: Using Balloons and Buttons to Model Spectroscopy %D January 30, 2017 %I American Association of Physics Teachers %C College Park %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14318&DocID=4677 %O application/pdf

%0 Report %A Vieyra, Rebecca %D January 30, 2017 %T Star Spectra Science: Using Balloons and Buttons to Model Spectroscopy %C College Park %I American Association of Physics Teachers %8 January 30, 2017 %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14318&DocID=4677

Disclaimer: ComPADRE offers citation styles as a guide only. We cannot offer interpretations about citations as this is an automated procedure. Please refer to the style manuals in the Citation Source Information area for clarifications.