Science news story




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Resources:


  1. Science news story.

  2. Word bank.

  3. Activity 1: Mixed-up meanings.

  4. Activity 2: Comprehension.

  5. Activity 3: Find the missing word.

  6. Activity 4: What kind of statements?

  7. Activity 5: Topic for group discussion or pupil presentations.

  8. Links to free activities, lesson plans and background information.

  9. Daily tip for running science class discussions and groupwork.



News


European Space Observatory: 24-Nov-2006, AlphaGalileo.

Topsy turvy


The calm appearance of this starburst galaxy masks an inner turmoil. Gas and bright stars cluster in its arms, a sure sign of dramatic and violent star birth. But this is just a glimpse of the rough times galaxy NGC 1313 has seen in the past.
Probing deep into the heart of the galaxy, astronomers have found many mysteries.
This image of the center of the galaxy was taken with the FORS instrument at the European Space Observatory (ESO). It shows a stunning natural beauty.
NGC 1313 looks a little like our own galaxy's closest neighbors, the Magellanic Clouds. It has a barred spiral shape, with arms coming out in a loose twist from the ends of the bar.
NGC 1313 lies just 15 million light years away from our own galaxy, the Milky Way - just a short skip on cosmological scales.
The spiral arms are a hotbed of star-forming activity. Large numbers of clusters of hot stars are being born at a staggering rate out of dense clouds of gas and dust. Their light blasts through the surrounding gas, creating an intricately beautiful pattern of light and dark nebulosity.
But NGC 1313 is not just a pretty picture. Scratch beneath the elegant surface and you find some of the most puzzling problems facing astrophysicists.
Around one quarter of all large stars are born in starburst galaxies such as this. They spawn stars up to a thousand times faster than the Milky Way.
In most starbursts the surge in starbirth is triggered when two galaxies come too close together. Mutual attraction between the galaxies causes immense turmoil in their gas and dust, and triggers the burst of star formation.
NGC 1313's appearance shows it has seen troubled times. Its spiral arms look lop-sided, and gas globules are spread out widely around them. Observations with ESO's 3.6-meter telescope at La Silla have shown that its 'real' center, around which it rotates, does not coincide with the central bar. So its rotation is out of kilter.
But strangely enough NGC 1313 is an isolated galaxy. It is not part of a group and has no near neighbors. It is not clear whether it may have swallowed a small companion in its past. So what caused the asymmetry and the stellar baby boom?
Most of the star formation is taking place in dense gassy regions scattered around the arms. But astronomers simply do not know what is compressing this gas so much that stars are forming at a staggering rate.
Probing further into NGC 1313's interior reveals more mystery. In the midst of the starburst regions, two objects are emitting highly energetic X-rays. These are known as ultra-luminous X-ray sources (ULX).
Astronomers suspect they might be black holes, with masses several hundred times the mass of our Sun. But they do not fully understand how such objects could be created out of ordinary stars.
NGC 1313 is an intriguing study for astronomers. This new image demonstrates again how the FORS instrument can capture the beauty and stunning complexity of galaxies - and how, as so often in science, answering some questions raises many more.
550 words

Flesch reading ease: 62.0



Flesch-Kincaid Grade level: 8.4


Word bank


Pupils will not know some of the words used in the text. Meanings are given below, followed by a table mixed randomly - to provide an exercise in matching words and meanings.
By tackling this and the exercises that follow - which are known as directed activities related to texts (DARTs) - pupils can engage with a piece of writing, and learn a great deal from it, even when many of its ideas and words are unfamiliar to them.






Word

Meaning

1

appearance

what something looks like

2

astrophysicist

scientist who studies the physical nature of stars, galaxies and the universe

3

asymmetry

lack of symmetry; being unbalanced

4

attraction

pulling together

5

black hole

object in space whose gravity is so great that nothing can escape from it, not even light

6

cluster

a small, close group

7

cluster

form a cluster

8

coincide

be in the same place

9

complexity

the quality of having many connecting parts that are hard to separate

10

compress

squeeze into smaller space

11

cosmological

of the universe

12

dense

packed closely together

13

dramatic

exciting and impressive

14

electromagnetic radiation

electric and magnetic energy that travels through space at nearly 300,000 kilometers per second. Light, radio and X-rays are types of electromagnetic radiation.

15

elegant

graceful in appearance

16

emitting

sending out

17

energetic

having great energy

18

energy

ability to do work

19

formation

coming into existence

20

galaxy

collection of millions or billions of stars, held together by gravity

21

globule

small rounded drop. (Note: these gas globules only look small from Earth. They are really immense.)

22

gravity

force that pulls all objects together

23

hotbed

place that promotes rapid growth

24

immense

huge, extremely large

25

interior

inner parts, insides

26

intricately

in a very complicated way

27

intriguing

very interesting, fascinating

28

isolated

alone

29

light year

the distance light travels in one year in empty space; roughly 6 million million miles. Note: a light year is a distance not a time.

30

luminous

emitting large amounts of energy in the form of light, or sometimes other electromagnetic radiation

31

mass

the amount of matter in a body

32

massive

having a large mass

33

mutual

done to each other

34

nebulosity

general term for a fuzzy area of the night sky, usually a distant cloud of gas or dust

35

observation

gathering of information for scientific study by noting what happens

36

pattern

a regular arrangement of lines, shapes, colors etc

37

probing

looking closely

38

rotate

go around, revolve

39

spawn

produce in large quantities

40

spiral

going round and round a center, and getting gradually closer or further away

41

staggering

amazing

42

symmetry

exact matching of parts on both sides of a line, or around a center; pleasing balance

43

trigger

set off something bigger

44

turmoil

wild confusion

45

X-rays

type of electromagnetic radiation; invisible and penetrating

Activity 1 Mixed-up meanings


Pupils should try to fill in the blanks in the final column with the words that match the meanings. The words needed are listed, randomly mixed, in the first column.
This exercise should not be tackled in isolation, but by a reader with access to the story itself: The contexts in which words are used provide powerful clues to their meanings.






Word

Meaning

Word should be

1

dramatic

what something looks like




2

asymmetry

scientist who studies the physical nature of stars, galaxies and the universe




3

symmetry

lack of symmetry; being unbalanced




4

nebulosity

pulling together




5

elegant

object in space whose gravity is so great that nothing can escape from it, not even light




6

mutual

a small, close group




7

emitting

form a cluster




8

mass

be in the same place




9

spawn

the quality of having many connecting parts that are hard to separate




10

X-rays

squeeze into smaller space




11

energy

of the universe




12

cluster

packed closely together




13

black hole

exciting and impressive




14

turmoil

electric and magnetic energy that travels through space at nearly 300,000 kilometers per second. Light, radio and X-rays are types of electromagnetic radiation.




15

electromagnetic radiation

graceful in appearance




16

luminous

sending out




17

galaxy

having great energy




18

isolated

ability to do work




19

globule

coming into existence




20

massive

collection of millions or billions of stars, held together by gravity




21

pattern

small rounded drop. (Note: these gas globules only look small from Earth. They are really immense.)




22

appearance

force that pulls all objects together




23

cosmological

place that promotes rapid growth




24

complexity

huge, extremely large




25

intricately

inner parts, insides




26

observation

in a very complicated way




27

hotbed

very interesting, fascinating




28

attraction

alone




29

spiral

the distance light travels in one year in empty space; roughly 6 million million miles. Note: a light year is a distance not a time.




30

staggering

emitting large amounts of energy in the form of light, or sometimes other electromagnetic radiation




31

intriguing

the amount of matter in a body




32

energetic

having a large mass




33

immense

done to each other




34

gravity

general term for a fuzzy area of the night sky, usually a distant cloud of gas or dust




35

dense

gathering of information for scientific study by noting what happens




36

rotate

a regular arrangement of lines, shapes, colors etc




37

light year

looking closely




38

compress

go around, revolve




39

interior

produce in large quantities




40

astrophysicist

going round and round a center, and getting gradually closer or further away




41

trigger

amazing




42

formation

exact matching of parts on both sides of a line, or around a center; pleasing balance




43

probing

set off something bigger




44

coincide

wild confusion




45

cluster

type of electromagnetic radiation; invisible and penetrating




Activity 2 Comprehension





  1. What is the name of this galaxy?




  1. What shows that stars are being born in the arms of the galaxy?




  1. What instrument was used to produce the new image?




  1. Describe what the galaxy looks like in one sentence.




  1. What are the nearest neighbors to our own galaxy?




  1. How far away from Earth is NGC 1313?




  1. Is that a long way compared to the size of the universe as a whole?




  1. When stars are born, what are they made out of?




  1. Are stars born in our own galaxy, the Milky Way?




  1. What is the big difference between the birth of stars in galaxies like NGC 1313 and in our own galaxy?




  1. What usually sets off bursts of stars being born?




  1. Does NGC 1313 look like it might have been in some kind of collision?




  1. Give two pieces of evidence for this.




  1. Can the scientists see another galaxy nearby that it might have collided with?




  1. What might have happened to this other galaxy, if there ever was one?




  1. Why does gas need to be compressed to form a star?




  1. What is a ULX?




  1. Do you think these were detected using the same instrument that produced the image?




  1. Justify your answer. This means explain why you gave the answer you did: Why do you think it was or was not the same instrument?




  1. The scientists have a name for these objects, but do they actually know what they are?




  1. How many mysteries can you count in this story, and what are they?




  1. If you were these scientists what would you like to study next?



Activity 3 Find the missing word



Pupils should try to fill in the blanks using clues from the rest of the sentence. When in doubt, the length of each blank indicates the length of the missing word. A complete list of words that belong in the blanks is provided at the end of the passage.

Topsy turvy


The calm appearance of this starburst galaxy masks __ inner turmoil. Gas and bright stars cluster in ___ arms, a sure sign of dramatic and violent star _____. But this is just a glimpse of the _____ times galaxy NGC 1313 has seen in the past.
Probing deep into the heart of the galaxy, astronomers ____ found many mysteries.
This image of the center of ___ galaxy was taken with the FORS instrument at the ________ Space Observatory (ESO). It shows a stunning natural beauty.
NGC 1313 looks a little like our own galaxy's _______ neighbors, the Magellanic Clouds. It has a barred spiral _____, with arms coming out in a loose twist ____ the ends of the bar.
NGC 1313 lies just __ million light years away from our own galaxy, the _____ Way - just a short skip on cosmological scales.
The spiral arms are a hotbed of star-forming activity. _____ numbers of clusters of hot stars are being born __ a staggering rate out of dense clouds of gas ___ dust. Their light blasts through the surrounding gas, creating __ intricately beautiful pattern of light and dark nebulosity.
But ___ 1313 is not just a pretty picture. Scratch beneath ___ elegant surface and you find some of the most ________ problems facing astrophysicists.
Around one quarter of all large stars ___ born in starburst galaxies such as this. They spawn _____ up to a thousand times faster than the Milky ___.
In most starbursts the surge in starbirth is _________ when two galaxies come too close together. Mutual attraction _______ the galaxies causes immense turmoil in their gas and ____, and triggers the burst of star formation.
NGC ______ appearance shows it has seen troubled times. Its spiral ____ look lop-sided, and gas globules are spread out widely ______ them. Observations with ESO's 3.6-meter telescope at La Silla ____ shown that its 'real' center, around which it rotates, ____ not coincide with the central bar. So its rotation __ out of kilter.
But strangely enough NGC 1313 is __ isolated galaxy. It is not part of a group ___ has no near neighbors. It is not clear whether __ may have swallowed a small companion in its past. __ what caused the asymmetry and the stellar baby boom?
Most of the star formation is taking place in _____ gassy regions scattered around the arms. But astronomers simply __ not know what is compressing this gas so much ____ stars are forming at a staggering rate.
Probing further into ___ 1313's interior reveals more mystery. In the midst of ___ starburst regions, two objects are emitting highly energetic X-rays. _____ are known as ultra-luminous X-ray sources (ULX).
Astronomers suspect ____ might be black holes, with masses several hundred times ___ mass of our Sun. But they do not fully __________ how such objects could be created out of ordinary _____.
NGC 1313 is an intriguing study for astronomers. This ___ image demonstrates again how the FORS instrument can capture ___ beauty and stunning complexity of galaxies - and how, __ so often in science, answering some questions raises many more.

These are all the words that belong in the blanks:

15, 1313's, an, an, an, and, and, are, arms, around, as, at, between, birth, closest, dense, do, does, dust, European, from, have, have, is, it, its, Large, Milky, new, NGC, NGC, puzzling, rough, shape, So, stars, stars, that, the, the, the, the, the, These, they, triggered, understand, Way



Answer Key:

Topsy turvy


The calm appearance of this starburst galaxy masks an inner turmoil. Gas and bright stars cluster in its arms, a sure sign of dramatic and violent star birth. But this is just a glimpse of the rough times galaxy NGC 1313 has seen in the past.
Probing deep into the heart of the galaxy, astronomers have found many mysteries.
This image of the center of the galaxy was taken with the FORS instrument at the European Space Observatory (ESO). It shows a stunning natural beauty.
NGC 1313 looks a little like our own galaxy's closest neighbors, the Magellanic Clouds. It has a barred spiral shape, with arms coming out in a loose twist from the ends of the bar.
NGC 1313 lies just 15 million light years away from our own galaxy, the Milky Way - just a short skip on cosmological scales.
The spiral arms are a hotbed of star-forming activity. Large numbers of clusters of hot stars are being born at a staggering rate out of dense clouds of gas and dust. Their light blasts through the surrounding gas, creating an intricately beautiful pattern of light and dark nebulosity.
But NGC 1313 is not just a pretty picture. Scratch beneath the elegant surface and you find some of the most puzzling problems facing astrophysicists.
Around one quarter of all large stars are born in starburst galaxies such as this. They spawn stars up to a thousand times faster than the Milky Way.
In most starbursts the surge in starbirth is triggered when two galaxies come too close together. Mutual attraction between the galaxies causes immense turmoil in their gas and dust, and triggers the burst of star formation.
NGC 1313's appearance shows it has seen troubled times. Its spiral arms look lop-sided, and gas globules are spread out widely around them. Observations with ESO's 3.6-meter telescope at La Silla have shown that its 'real' center, around which it rotates, does not coincide with the central bar. So its rotation is out of kilter.
But strangely enough NGC 1313 is an isolated galaxy. It is not part of a group and has no near neighbors. It is not clear whether it may have swallowed a small companion in its past. So what caused the asymmetry and the stellar baby boom?
Most of the star formation is taking place in dense gassy regions scattered around the arms. But astronomers simply do not know what is compressing this gas so much that stars are forming at a staggering rate.
Probing further into NGC 1313's interior reveals more mystery. In the midst of the starburst regions, two objects are emitting highly energetic X-rays. These are known as ultra-luminous X-ray sources (ULX).
Astronomers suspect they might be black holes, with masses several hundred times the mass of our Sun. But they do not fully understand how such objects could be created out of ordinary stars.
NGC 1313 is an intriguing study for astronomers. This new image demonstrates again how the FORS instrument can capture the beauty and stunning complexity of galaxies - and how, as so often in science, answering some questions raises many more.

Activity 4 What kind of statement?


Students should read the news story on page 1 about the latest scientific research, and highlight phrases or sentences according to the following key (or any other way of indicating the different types of statement that can be done with the resources in their pockets or in your classroom):
Existing knowledge

Aims of the research

Technology and methods

New findings or developments

Hypothesis

Prediction

Evidence


Issues and applications
Normally no more than one phrase or sentence should be highlighted in each paragraph, unless the reader decides that a particular paragraph contains several really important ideas.
Usually the decision will not be too difficult. But choosing between, say, hypotheses and new findings can sometimes be tricky. There isn't always an obviously right or wrong answer, even to the scientists themselves.
Pupils should be encouraged not to agonize too long over their choice of statement type, but to be prepared to give reasons for their decisions.
Note: A hypothesis is a "tentative explanation that leads to predictions that can be tested by experiment or observation".

Answer Key: (This is an illustrative set of choices. There are many others.)

Topsy turvy


The calm appearance of this starburst galaxy masks an inner turmoil. Gas and bright stars cluster in its arms, a sure sign of dramatic and violent star birth. But this is just a glimpse of the rough times galaxy NGC 1313 has seen in the past.
Probing deep into the heart of the galaxy, astronomers have found many mysteries.
This image of the center of the galaxy was taken with the FORS instrument at the European Space Observatory (ESO). It shows a stunning natural beauty.
NGC 1313 looks a little like our own galaxy's closest neighbors, the Magellanic Clouds. It has a barred spiral shape, with arms coming out in a loose twist from the ends of the bar.
NGC 1313 lies just 15 million light years away from our own galaxy, the Milky Way - just a short skip on cosmological scales.
The spiral arms are a hotbed of star-forming activity. Large numbers of clusters of hot stars are being born at a staggering rate out of dense clouds of gas and dust. Their light blasts through the surrounding gas, creating an intricately beautiful pattern of light and dark nebulosity.
But NGC 1313 is not just a pretty picture. Scratch beneath the elegant surface and you find some of the most puzzling problems facing astrophysicists.
Around one quarter of all large stars are born in starburst galaxies such as this. They spawn stars up to a thousand times faster than the Milky Way.
In most starbursts the surge in starbirth is triggered when two galaxies come too close together. Mutual attraction between the galaxies causes immense turmoil in their gas and dust, and triggers the burst of star formation.
NGC 1313's appearance shows it has seen troubled times. Its spiral arms look lop-sided, and gas globules are spread out widely around them. Observations with ESO's 3.6-meter telescope at La Silla have shown that its 'real' center, around which it rotates, does not coincide with the central bar. So its rotation is out of kilter.
But strangely enough NGC 1313 is an isolated galaxy. It is not part of a group and has no near neighbors. It is not clear whether it may have swallowed a small companion in its past. So what caused the asymmetry and the stellar baby boom?
Most of the star formation is taking place in dense gassy regions scattered around the arms. But astronomers simply do not know what is compressing this gas so much that stars are forming at a staggering rate.
Probing further into NGC 1313's interior reveals more mystery. In the midst of the starburst regions, two objects are emitting highly energetic X-rays. These are known as ultra-luminous X-ray sources (ULX).
Astronomers suspect they might be black holes, with masses several hundred times the mass of our Sun. But they do not fully understand how such objects could be created out of ordinary stars.
NGC 1313 is an intriguing study for astronomers. This new image demonstrates again how the FORS instrument can capture the beauty and stunning complexity of galaxies - and how, as so often in science, answering some questions raises many more.

Activity 5 Topic for group discussion or pupil presentations

Adapted from Amazing Space (http://amazing-space.stsci.edu):


Children have many misconceptions about stars. The best way to learn how they think is to ask them:
Explain that sometimes the ideas they have may not be entirely true. You are going to try to identify these ideas. Tell them you will read several statements and they must decide if they are true or false.
Once students have decided on their own responses, invite them to discuss their ideas in small groups. Be sure to establish ground rules concerning pupil responses to the thoughts of their peers. Remind them that almost anyone can hold misconceptions in science. But these need to be identified before learning can begin.
Ask students if they have any other ideas about stars that are not mentioned in this activity. These may be submitted to Amazing Space for addition to their list, through the Contact us section of the website.

True/false statements about stars:




  1. The Sun is a star

  2. All stars are exactly the same

  3. The stars in a constellation are close to each other

  4. No star lives forever

  5. All stars end their lives the same way - as supernovae.

These are the facts:



  1. True. The Sun is a star. People associate stars with the night sky because they can see stars clearly. The Sun can be seen in the daytime because it is so close to Earth. We can't see other stars during the day because the Sun's light illuminates the Earth's atmosphere.

  2. False. All stars are not the same. Stars vary tremendously in brightness, color, mass, size temperature and age.

  3. False. The stars that make up a constellation are the brightest in that region of the sky. But they hardly ever close to each other. Some groups of stars are relatively close to each other and similar distances from Earth. These are nebulae and galaxies.

  4. True Stars do not live forever. Their lifespans range from millions to trillions of years, depending on the type of star. The shortest-lived stars live a mere 50 million years.

  5. False. Not all stars end their lives in violet explosions called supernovae. Only massive stars do. The Sun and other less massive stars will gently puff off their outer layers to form a shell of glowing gas called a planetary nebula.

Links to free activities, lesson plans and background information.





  1. http://school.discovery.com/schooladventures/universe/itsawesome/lightyears/index.html Interactive introduction to light years and how colossal they are. American Museum of Natural History.




  1. http://amazing-space.stsci.edu/resources/explorations/galaxies-galore/ Interactive introduction to different types of galaxies.




  1. http://school.discovery.com/schooladventures/universe/galaxytour/index.html Galaxy tour; includes audio files of astronomer answering kids' questions. Discovery School.




  1. www.teachersdomain.org/resources/phy03/sci/ess/eiu/chandra/index.html Astronomy at different wavelengths. Teachers' Domain.




  1. www.teachersdomain.org/resources/ess05/sci/ess/eiu/biguniverse/index.html How big is our universe? Teachers' Domain.




  1. www.teachersdomain.org/resources/ess05/sci/ess/eiu/lp_universe/index.html Comprehensive multimedia lesson on our knowledge of the universe.




  1. http://amazing-space.stsci.edu/resources/explorations/light/ Observing at different wavelengths.




  1. www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/topnav/materials/listbytype/Taking_the_Measure_of_the_Universe.html Measure of the universe poster with text, images and lesson plans. NASA




  1. www.eso.org/instruments/fors/index.html FORS instrument homepage. Teacher background. From ESO.




  1. www.astr.ua.edu/gifimages/lmc_smc.html Teacher background on Magellanic clouds.



Links to more links


www.teachspacescience.stsci.edu/cgi-bin/ssrtop.plex The Space Science Education Resource Directory - find NASA space science products for use in the classroom.
http://amazing-space.stsci.edu Amazing Space resources.

Daily tip for running science class discussions and groupwork

What small groups do best is to allow teacher and students to seize on the 'teachable moment', when students reveal knowledge gaps, confusion or curiosity.


"Small group teaching allows the teacher to respond to developing situations in such a way as to maximize opportunities for learning." (Rudduck, J. Learning through small group discussion Guildford: Society for Research into Higher Education, 1978.)
This is easier to do than in a lecture. Unfortunately it is quite common for both students and teachers to allow the small group to become so dominated by the discussion leader that it becomes a mini-lecture.
Adapted from Small Group Discussions by Craig McInnis.


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