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Astronomy Demonstration Videos

AU is a series of short videos (2-3 minutes) of demonstrations commonly performed in introductory astronomy classes. The videos are appropriate for:

  1. Viewing by students as a substitution for the live demonstration. We hope that movies never replace live demonstrations — but these videos make demonstrations accessible for students in distance education courses and at institutions with limited equipment.
  2. Preparation for teachers interested in performing the live demonstration. As the demonstration is performed, we comment on the necessary equipment, its availability, and common pitfalls.

The interactive components available for each video are denoted by PI for embedded peer instruction questions and WS for follow-up worksheets.

Completed Videos

Angular Momentum   PI

A number of demonstrations are used to convey how the conservation of angular momentum shows up in astronomy.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 41 Mb, 5.3 minutes).

Blackbody Radiation   PI

Metal blocks with holes drilled in them are looked at with visible and infrared cameras.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 44 Mb, 4.4 minutes).

Charge Separation: Lightning   PI


This video explores the separation of charge from materials rubbing against each other as occurs with lightning.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 51 Mb, 6.0 minutes).

Differentiation   WS


This video demonstrates the separation of materials according to density in the context of planet formation.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 24 Mb, 2.5 minutes).

Post Video Worksheet (.doc) (.pdf) – a straightforward worksheet exploring diffentiation and materials of lower density floating.

ExtraSolar Planet Inclination   PI


This video demonstrates how the transit and radial velocity detection mechanisms are limited by the observed systems's inclination.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 51 Mb, 7.0 minutes).

Hydrostatic Equilibrium   PI   WS


This video demonstrates the increase of pressure with depth in a fluid of constant density and one with increasing density analogous to a star's material.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 53 Mb, 5.7 minutes).

Post Video Worksheet (.doc) (.pdf) – a worksheet exploring the increase in pressures with depth in a constant density fluid and one of increasing density.

Kepler's 3rd Law   PI


This video uses a hyperbolic funnel to model planets moving in circular orbits and explores how their orbital periods and velocities varies with distance from the sun .

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 32 Mb, 3.5 minutes).

Magnetic Deflection

This video shows the deflection of charged particles in a magnetic field as an analogy for aurorae.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 23 Mb, 2.5 minutes).

Phase Changes 1: P-T Diagrams   PI

This video explores how the phase of matter depends on pressure and temperature.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 28 Mb, 4.1 minutes).

Phase Changes 2: Atmospheric Pressure   PI

This video explores how the pressure of an atmosphere is necessary for the existence of liquids.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 28 Mb, 2.9 minutes).

Phase Changes 3: Martian Polar Caps   PI

This video explores the sublimation of carbon dioxide which explains how the appearrance of the Martian Polar Caps changes with the seasons.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 26 Mb, 2.9 minutes).

Phase Changes 4: Triton Geysers

This video illustrates liquid nitrogen placed under very low pressure which is similar to the phenomenon underlying geysers on Neptune's moon Triton.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 31 Mb, 3.6 minutes).

Phase Changes 5: Shape Memory Alloys   PI

A capstone to the phase changes series looking more generally at phase changes and specifically at shape memory allows (nitinol wire).

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 42 Mb, 4.7 minutes).

Phosphorescence

This video demonstrates that photons of different wavelengths have different energies.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 26 Mb, 2.7 minutes).

Pressure   PI

This video demonstrates the relationship between pressure, applied force, and area and discusses a couple of examples of pressure in astronomy.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 35 Mb, 4.3 minutes).

Retrograde Motion   PI   WS

This video surveys observations, historical theories, use of a mechanical demonstration, and compares the apparent motion for all superior planets of the motion.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 48 Mb, 6.5 minutes).

Post Video Worksheet (.doc) (.pdf) – a worksheet exploring the historical vocabulary, geometric perspective, and parameters describing the apparent motion of superior planets for retrograde motion.

Precession of Earth

This video uses an air gyroscope is used to simulate the precession of Earth and the changing position of the North Celestial Pole in the sky.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 26 Mb, 3.2 minutes).

Spin Casting   WS

This video has a physics demonstration illustrating the technique for making large telescope mirrors.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 37 Mb, 2.5 minutes).

Post Video Worksheet (.doc) (.pdf) – a straightforward worksheet exploring the process and physics concepts of spincasting.

Solar Tube   PI

This video uses a giant balloon to explore Archimedes' Principle and the Ideal Gas Law.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 59 Mb, 4.5 minutes).

Sunspots Overhead   PI   WS

This video provides an analogy for sunspots appearing dark because they are cooler than the surrounding photosphere.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 37 Mb, 2.5 minutes).

An interactive version (requiring prediction) of this movie is available here on YouTube. Direct link to the .mp4 file of the interactive version.

Post Video Worksheet (.doc) (.pdf) – a complex worksheet applying blackbody laws to the video (assumes that blackbody laws have been thoroughly covered previously).

Supernova Bounce

This video illustrates two different versions of a demonstration analogous to the "core bounce" that occurs in a supernova.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 31 Mb, 3.2 minutes).

Temperature 1   PI   WS

This video explores temperature using the properties of air in a balloon.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 29 Mb, 3.3 minutes).

Post Video Worksheet (.doc) (.pdf) – an exploration of the speed distribution of a gas and how a balloon is affected by the surrounding temperature and pressure.

Temperature 2   PI

This video continues the discussion of how we measure temperature and will look generally at the effects that temperature changes have on solids and specifically at thermal expansion.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 62 Mb, 6.1 minutes).

Temperature 3:Absolute Zero

This video uses a constant volume bulb and the ideal gas law to crudely estimate the value of absolute zero.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 42 Mb, 5.0 minutes).

Thermal Transport in the Sun I: Radiation

This video illustrates a random walk demonstration analogous to photons making their way out of the interior of the sun.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 21 Mb, 2.1 minutes).

Thermal Transport in the Sun II: Convection    WS

This video illustrates a demonstration analogous to granulation on the surface of the sun.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 22 Mb, 2.2 minutes).

Post Video Worksheet (.doc) (.pdf) – a straightforward, simple representation of the concepts in the video.

Thermal Transport 3: Conduction   PI

This video will explore conduction which is not very important in astronomy, but very important on Earth. We will specifically look at space shuttle tiles.

Direct link to the .mp4 file (854 x 480 px, 41 Mb, 5.7 minutes).

Videos in (or soon to be in) Production

Acknowledgements

Videography work was done by undergraduate art major Ben Skudlarek and film & new media majors Jordan Fountain and Ryan Wadzinski. A lot of artwork was done by Engineering Major Aaron Hirsh. Demonstration/narration was contributed by physics graduates Tina Riley and Marina (Bradaric) Bush. Support has been received from the UNL UCARE Program.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation under grant #1245679. Additionally, this material is based upon work supported by (while serving at) the National Science Foundation as part of their IR/D program.