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Groovy Earthquake Proof Skyscrapers

 Groovy Earthquake Proof Skyscrapers

“An earthquake is such fun when it is over.” – George Orwell

A long time ago, our ancestors believed earthquakes to be the act of the Gods. Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, was the first to realise that earthquakes were more than an act of the Gods. To this day, STEMists continue to tame the devastating effects earthquakes have on human lives, buildings, roads, and power supplies.

How do people build structures that resist earthquake damage? Well, in the past it wasn’t really possible. The building materials available were limited to stone, brick, wood, thatch – none of them good for surviving earthquakes or high winds. Modern skyscrapers are made possible by modern building materials, especially steel.

What is steel?

Steel is iron mixed with other substances and/or given special treatments.  Carbon steel is iron mixed with carbon.  Depending on the amounts of each element, carbon steel can be brittle and hard like cast iron (e.g. a skillet) or soft and workable like wrought iron (think of a groovy iron gate.)

Wrought Iron Gate

Groovy Wrought Iron Gate

Alloy steel is iron mixed with other metals such as chromium, nickel, or vanadium.  The metals in the mix are chosen to make the iron stronger or lighter.  Tool steel is specially treated to be strong through a process called tempering.  The steel is quickly heated to a high temperature, quickly cooled (quenched) and heated again to a lower temperature.  Finally, stainless steel is mixed with high amounts of chromium and nickel to make it smooth, easy to clean and polish. Stainless steel is used for eating utensils and surgical instruments.

How do STEMists make buildings earthquake resistant?

The more lightweight and flexible a building is, the better it can withstand the lateral (sideways) forces of an earthquake.  Skyscrapers are built around a steel frame that supports the weight of the walls and floors.  Regular buildings use the walls to support the weight of the house or other structure, but in a skyscraper the weight of all those upper walls would be too much for the lower walls to support.  Steel makes tall buildings possible.

From the spire of the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai during construction

From the spire of the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai during construction

The foundation of a skyscraper is extremely important. Think of a pyramid with its wide base. Would it stand as well if turned upside down? Of course not!  Base-isolation, an engineering design, is used to prevent damage to buildings from the seismic impact from earthquakes. This technique where the bottom section of a building absorb the seismic waves of energy to prevent damage, was used as far back as the Mausoleum of Cyrus.

Mausoleum of Cyrus, the oldest base-isolated structure in the world

Mausoleum of Cyrus, the oldest base-isolated structure in the world

Skyscrapers are placed on a foundation designed to absorb vibrations from earthquakes.  Architects design flexible springs and cushioned cylinders to act as shock absorbers.  Think of the shock absorbers on a car.  Without proper shocks, the car would bounce dangerously as it moved over potholes or railroad crossings. The shocks keep all the tires on the ground despite bumps, just as a building’s foundation keeps the building from tipping or moving off the foundation.

Flexible springs and cushioned cylinders to act as shock absorbers

Architects design flexible springs and cushioned cylinders to act as shock absorbers.

A shake table is a device used to determine how well a building will react to earthquakes.  To see how well structures will react to earthquake shocks, building models are placed on massive outdoor shake tables and subjected to an array of ground motion energy.

Shake Table

Outdoor Shake Table

Burj Khalifa building in Dubai
The Burj Khalifa, the world’s largest skyscraper, is so tall the tip of the top sphere is visible from 95 kilometers away on a clear day. It has an enormous “mass dampener” or harmonic absorber. This is a device mounted inside skyscrapers to absorb vibrations that might otherwise damage the building. The aluminum used in the building weighs as much as five A380 aircraft and the concrete weighs as much as 100,000 elephants. The Burj Khalifa’s aesthetic and environmental design mimics the look of a hymenocallis flower with its shaped central spire while collecting 15 million gallons of water every year.

Burj Khalifa building in Dubai

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa building in Dubai

Design and Inspiration from Nature

Burj Khalifa compared with some other well-known tall structures

Burj Khalifa compared with some other well-known tall structures (not all pictured are, however, earthquake proof.)

Taipei 101 building in Taiwan

In Taiwan, the Taipei 101 building (over 449 meters high) includes a central column that acts as a pendulum to balance the sideways movement of seismic waves from earthquakes and typhoons.  Architects got this idea from ancient pagodas (temples) which have stood for centuries in earthquake-prone areas.  The Japanese used the same pagoda idea when they built the Yokohama Landmark Tower (296 meters tall.)

Taipei 101 building in Taiwan

Taipei 101 Skyline

Taipei 101 building in Taiwan

Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia
The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, stand 452 meters high. They were the tallest buildings in the world until 2004 and remain the tallest twin towers in the world. They include the world’s tallest 2-story bridge connecting the 41st and 42nd floors. The bridge is designed to slide in and out of the buildings as the wind causes the buildings to sway–safer than a rigid design would be.

Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia

The Petronas Towers at dusk.

Petronas Towers Skyline

The Petronas Towers and the Kuala Lumpur Tower dominate the skyline of Kuala Lumpur’s Central Business District.

U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles
In the United States, earthquakes are most closely associated with the state of California, although there are fault lines in other areas of the country as well. The U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles is 310 meters high. It is also known as the Library Tower because it includes a restored Los Angeles library.

U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles

U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles Skyline

Downtown Los Angeles Skyline

TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco
Another famous skyscraper in California is the TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco. This elongated pyramid was built to allow sunlight to reach the surrounding areas in spite of the building’s height of 260 meters. That was pretty groovy for them to do for their not so tall neighbors. Because of the shape of the building, the majority of the windows can pivot 360 degrees so they can be washed from the inside. The spire is actually hollow and lined with a 100-foot steel stairway at a 60 degree angle, followed by two steel ladders. There used to be a public observation deck on the 27th floor, but it was closed after 9/11. That means you can only check out the view by looking at the live feeds at the Visitor Center.

TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco

TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco

TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco

Interior TransAmerica Pyramid

There is a commemorative plaque in honor of Bummer and Lazarus, the famous dogs of the 1850s, at the base of the building.

Bummer and Lazarus, the famous dogs of the 1850s

Buildings of the Future

The Wilshire Grand Tower
The Wilshire Grand Tower will be 335 meters tall when completed. It will then be the tallest building in Los Angeles and the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

The Wilshire Grand Tower

Salesforce Tower (once called the Transbay Tower)
Also being built in San Francisco is the Salesforce Tower (once called the Transbay Tower.) This building will be 326 meters tall and second tallest building west of the Mississippi. It was begun in 2013 and is expected to be open in 2018.

Salesforce Tower (once called the Transbay Tower)

Architects and engineers are always looking for new ideas to build groovier buildings, especially in earthquake-prone areas. Old ideas like the pagoda and new ideas like modern alloy steel and harmonic absorbers can combine to make buildings that look groovy and stand tall through the forces of nature.

Learn More about earthquakes and earthquake proof structures with “Shake It Up” Groovy Lab in a Box!

Shake It Up” Engineering Design Challenge: You are a groovy earthquake engineer who has been contracted by the city of Los Angeles. Using only the materials from your Groovy Lab in a Box, can you design and build the tallest skyscraper that can withstand the next BIG quake?

During their engineering design process, STEMists will investigate what causes earthquakes while constructing a groovy seismograph and shake table. Explore S and P waves, fault planes, famous earthquake proof structures around the world and much, much more! From their groovy lab notebook, STEMists do investigation activities which work in tandem with the special “Beyond…in a Box” online learning portal. This is a unique feature of Groovy Lab in a Box because it gives STEMists a deeper understanding of that month’s topic. “Beyond…in a Box” has videos, reading library and more interactive activities to supplement what they are learning from the box projects, which also helps the STEMist even more when completing the design challenge.

Join Now! and challenge your STEMists to a monthly Groovy Lab in a Box, full of everything a child needs to learn about and do hands-on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) investigations and engineering design challenges. Our monthly box activates thinking, questioning, inquiring and original creation as we guide children through scientific inquiry and the engineering design process.

It’s Not My Fault!

 “Water is clearly vital for life. What is perhaps more surprising is that water plays a crucial role in lubricating the motion of plates – without it there would be no plate techtonics. So water quickens life and the Earth itself.” – David Singleton 

Source: Earth Story: The Shaping of Our World

It's Not My Fault!

Understanding Faults
The earth’s crust is not one piece. There are plates, called tectonic plates, that sit next to one another like pieces in a puzzle. These plates bump against each other, sometimes causing cracks we call faults. Faults and mountain ranges are often found together, as the mountains were formed by edges of faults slipping past one another. There are also faults beneath the oceans.

A fault is a fracture (crack or break) in the earth’s outer layer (crust) in which the edges have moved up, down, or sideways. It is like two puzzle pieces that no longer fit together smoothly. As the broken edges press against one another energy is stored up. When the edges finally move, that energy is released as an earthquake.

Think of moving a heavy chest of drawers across a floor. You push harder and harder, storing energy, until the dresser finally slides over the floor, then stops as the energy is used up. Then you have to push a gain to cause more movement.

Tectonic Plates

Dip-Slip Faults

On a dip-slip fault, the rock planes move against one another mostly vertically. The two types of dip-slip faults are the normal (also called normal-slip fault, tensional fault or gravity fault) and the reverse (also called thrust fault, reverse-slip fault or compressional fault.) In a normal fault, the footwall of crust moves up over the hanging wall. In the reverse fault, the footwall moves down.

Dip-Slip Fault

Mosaic Canyon, Death Valley

Normal fault in Mosaic Canyon, Death Valley.

Reverse fault

Reverse Fault

The Rocky Mountains are part of a dip-slip fault

The Rocky Mountains are part of a dip-slip fault.

Strike-Slip Fault
Along a strike-slip fault, the rock planes move mostly horizontally (laterally or sideways.) One plate moves right or left, rubbing against the other plate. The San Andreas Fault in California and the Anatolian Fault in Turkey are two well-known examples of this type of fault. Other names for this type of fault are: transcurrent fault, lateral fault, tear fault or wrench fault.

Strike-Slip Fault

The San Andreas Fault in California

The San Andreas Fault in California

Piqiang Fault

The Piqiang Fault is a prominent strike-slip fault in the Keping Shan Thrust Belt in the NW Tarim Basin, China

Oblique-Slip Fault
The oblique fault has both horizontal (strike-slip) and vertical (dip-slip) movements that are measurable. Most faults have both types of movement, but one is much greater than the other. The oblique fault has significant movement in both directions.

Olbique Slip

Learn More
Shake It UpEngineering Design Challenge: You are a groovy earthquake engineer who has been contracted by the city of Los Angeles. Using only the materials from your Groovy Lab in a Box, can you design and build the tallest skyscraper that can withstand the next BIG quake?

During their engineering design process, STEMists will investigate what causes earthquakes while constructing a groovy seismograph and shake table. Explore S and P waves, fault planes, famous earthquake proof structures around the world and much, much more! From their groovy lab notebook, STEMists do investigation activities which work in tandem with the special “Beyond…in a Box” online learning portal. This is a unique feature of Groovy Lab in a Box because it gives STEMists a deeper understanding of that month’s topic. “Beyond…in a Box” has videos, reading library and more interactive activities to supplement what they are learning from the box projects, which also helps the STEMist even more when completing the design challenge.

Join Now! and challenge your STEMists to a monthly Groovy Lab in a Box, full of everything a child needs to learn about and do hands-on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) investigations and engineering design challenges. Our monthly box activates thinking, questioning, inquiring and original creation as we guide children through scientific inquiry and the engineering design process.

Nikola Tesla: Imagining the Future

“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success… such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.” – Nikola Tesla

Quoted by Cleveland , ‘A Talk With Tesla’, Atlanta Constitution (7 Jun 1896)

 Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla is being rediscovered in pop culture and celebrated as a man before his time and for distinctly imagining the future: devices and technologies we use today such as mobile phones, wireless internet and renewable energy.

“It will soon be possible to transmit wireless messages around the world so simply that any individual can carry and operate his own apparatus.” – Nikola Tesla 

From “WIRELESS OF THE FUTURE” Popular Mechanics October 1909 (Nikola Tesla in The New York Times.)

Tesla’s father Milutin Tesla

Tesla’s father Milutin Tesla

Tesla’s mother Georgina Djuka

Tesla’s mother Georgina Djuka

STEMist, Nikola Tesla, was born in Smiljan Croatia, which was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at that time. Ironically, the time of his birth was at the stroke of midnight between July 9th and 10th while a fierce electrical storm raged that very night in 1856. The fourth of five children, Nikola’s family lived on a farm and his father, Milutin Tesla, was a priest in the Serbian Orthodox Church. Sadly, his older brother, Danilo, was killed in a riding accident when Nikola was only 7 years old.

Place of Birth of Nikola Tesla Smiljan, Croatia

Place of Birth of Nikola Tesla Smiljan, Croatia, which was then part of Austria-Hungary.

Tesla's house where he was born in 1856

Nikola Tesla’s house where he was born in 1856.

Serbian Orthodox Church where Tesla was baptized

The Serbian Orthodox Church where Tesla was baptized and his father served as a Serbian Orthodox Priest.

After this tragedy, Tesla began to see visions and developed other quirks. For example, he was obsessed with the number 3, doing odd things such as circling a building 3 times before going in and insisting on 3 napkins next to his plate at every meal.

Graz University of Technolog

Graz University of Technolog

In 1877 Tesla studied mathematics and physics at the Graz University of Technology in Austria. He also studied natural philosophy at the Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.

Charles University in Prague

Charles University in Prague

Today people might find it odd for one person to study both science and philosophy, but in the past university students often learned many different things rather than just one specialty. Philosophy is the study of knowledge and thinking – skills we certainly use when we solve problems in math and science! The Greek Aristotle was a philosopher who also made many scientific observations. Tesla’s education probably made him better at thinking up groovy new ideas.

In 1882 Tesla was walking and admiring a sunset.  Suddenly, he saw a vision of a motor that used a rotating magnetic field to produce what we now know as alternating current

Alternating System (AC). Alternating electrical current changes directions 50 to 60 times per second.  Tesla drew this motor in the ground while a friend watched and wondered at the strange diagram.  According to the experts of the time, the motor Tesla had seen in his vision was impossible and would not work.  Fortunately, Tesla did not forget his motor.

Dynamo Electric Machine - US Patent 406,968

Dynamo Electric Machine Nikola Tesla – July 16, 1889.

US Patent 406,968

A model of Tesla's first induction motor

A model of Tesla’s first induction motor, in Tesla Museum, Belgrade

On June 6th, 1884, at the age of 28, Nikola arrived in New York City (later becoming a naturalized American citizen) in search of people who would believe in his unusual ideas about electricity. He became an engineer working on improving dynamos for Thomas Edison.  Edison and Tesla did not get along well, though.  One thing they disagreed about was the use of DC or AC power.  Edison wanted the nation powered by DC, while Tesla recognized that AC could provide more power, better power, and cheaper power.  AC eventually won, but Edison put up a fight.

Nikola Tesla & Thomas Edison

Nikola Tesla & Thomas Edison

Later Tesla worked for Westinghouse.  His greatest accomplishment at Westinghouse was the invention of the high-voltage transformer we now call the Tesla coil.

Tesla Coil

This Tesla coil shut down the power in Colorado Springs when this photo was taken. Photo by Dickenson V. Alley, photographer at the Century Magazines via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1891 Tesla worked with General Electric to install AC generators at Niagara Falls in New York – creating the first modern electrical power generating plant. The Niagara Falls Hydroelectric Power and Manufacturing Company (NFHP) was located on the lower river north of Niagara Falls.

Niagra Falls - first modern electrical power generating plant.

Niagra Falls – first modern electrical power generating plant.

Unfortunately, Nikola Tesla had some hard times in his life.  In 1895 his New York laboratory burned along with most of his lab notes and equipment.  The famous banker, J.P. Morgan, helped him rebuild.  After a time, however, Morgan grew tired of Tesla’s grand and imaginative ideas and stopped providing his support.  Thomas Edison and other rivals sometimes used Tesla’s work without giving him credit.

“I don’t care that they stole my idea . . I care that they don’t have any of their own” – Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

Tesla died alone in his apartment with no riches or fame.  He did befriend the pigeons in a nearby park, even bringing injured birds home so he could care for them.  He was not recognized enough in his lifetime for his amazing ideas and inventions.  The world we live in today, however, would be very different if Nikola Tesla had not lived.

“Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I have really worked, is mine” ― Nikola Tesla

You can honor Nikola Tesla and other STEMists who have given you the modern world by creating your own electrical projects.  Check out the “It’s Electric!” groovy box – building a paper circuit with LED lights, resistors, and a battery will be one way to practice the science you are learning.  You can go on to build a buzzing door alarm and design a new kind of groovy dance pad.  Tesla was often called a man ahead of his time because he saw how useful electricity could be.  You are living in the world he imagined!

“The world, I think, will wait a long time for Nikola Tesla’s equal in achievement and imagination.” Edwin Armstrong

6 Kid-Friendly U.S. Aviation Museums

I was sold on flying as soon as I had a taste for it.” – John Glenn

6 Kid-Friendly U.S. Aviation MuseumsMany young STEMists are curious about flight – whether they are watching how a bird flies or making a paper airplane that floats around the room. As you think about your summer vacation plans, consider visiting one of the many aviation museums around the U.S. Not only will your kids learn more about aviation, you and the entire family will have fun doing it. And, museums are much cheaper than theme park tickets!

Here are six U.S. aviation museums to investigate for your next STEM Family vacation:

#1: Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is the largest of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums. Its collection includes Saturn V rockets, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and the Apollo 11 Command Module, Columbia. Be sure to check out the Albert Einstein planetarium, where you will feel like you are zooming across the skis. The Smithsonian offers daily tours and educational activities for every member of the family.

Apollo 11 Command Module

Apollo 11 Command Module

#2: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport, Chantilly, VA

The Udvar-Hazy Center is a companion center to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Located at Dulles International Airport, the center features two large hangars that contain thousands of aviation and space artifacts. Visitors to the Udvar-Hazy Center can see a Concorde jet, the space shuttle Discovery and panoramic views of Dulles International airport. Like at the Smithsonian, you can enjoy daily tours, lectures, events and educational activities.

Space Shuttle Discovery

Space Shuttle Discovery

#3: Virginia Air and Space Center, Hampton, VA

The Virginia Air and Space Center serves as the visitor center for NASA Langley Research Center and Langley Air Force Base. The center celebrates more than 100 years of flight with fun and interactive exhibits, including launching a rocket, piloting a space shuttle and flying an airplane. The Virginia Air and Space Center also has an Apollo 12 Command Module, Mars meteorite and a moon rock. Also check out a movie in the center’s 3D IMAX theater and take a spin on the Hampton Carousel, a restored carousel that is near the air and space center.

The Virginia Air and Space Center

Aviators look younger and younger these days! Photo Credit: Mate Kitt

#4: San Diego Air and Space Museum, San Diego, CA

Located in Balboa Park in San Diego, the Air and Space Museum is a “must-stop” destination if you are traveling to Southern California. The museum emphasizes San Diego’s contribution to the field of aviation, so many of the exhibits focus on war aircraft, and modern jet and space travel. Some of the galleries include the World War I Gallery, Golden Age of Flight Gallery, World War II Gallery and Modern Jet & Space Age Gallery. Be sure to check out the flight simulators if you have a strong stomach! Lectures, student programs and other events are available.

PSA Flight Attendant Uniforms

PSA Flight Attendant Uniforms – Air and Space Museum, San Diego, CA

#5: The Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA

Biplane Tours - The Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA

Biplane Tours – The Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA

The Museum of Flight has more than 150 air and space craft on display, including the world’s first fighter plane, the first Air Force one and the Blackbird spy plane (the world’s fastest aircraft).
The museum also has several flight simulators, including the Voyager simulator, which is perfect for kids ages 4-11. If you are feeling especially adventurous, you can board a real vintage bi-plane and take an aerial tour of Seattle. Be sure to check out the museum’s special events, including their annual Women Fly! event for young women interested in aviation and aerospace careers.

#6: Southern Museum of Flight, Birmingham, AL

The Southern Museum of Flight is a 75,000-square-foot facility that contains more than 90 types of aircraft, as well as engines, models and other aviation artifacts. Museum visitors can check out the Korean War Jets Exhibit, Tuskegee Airmen Exhibit, Vietnam War Helicopters Exhibit and more. Kids may enjoy the flight simulator and climbing the many displays. Additionally, the museum is adjacent to the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame, whose members include Wilbur & Orville Wright and NASA astronaut Jan Davis.

Southern Museum of Flight, Birmingham, AL

Huff-Daland Duster crop duster of Delta Air Corporation, Monroe, LA

Aviation is one of the many great careers available to STEMists, so be sure to foster their natural curiosity with a trip to an aviation museum. Please check each museum’s event calendar, admission price and hours of operation before your trip to ensure you get the most out of your visit. Most importantly, have fun and make wonderful memories with your groovy STEM Family!

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If your child loves aviation, be sure to subscribe to our subscription service. Each month through our Groovy Lab in a Box subscription service, young STEMists (your children!) will receive fun, hands-on projects and an engineering design challenge – all focused on that month’s STEM topic. Order your box today!

The Evolution of the Telescope

The Evolution of the Telescope

“My parents gave me a small telescope, then I built my own, and one thing led to another. So that’s how I ended up going from being a hobby astronomer to a professional astronomer.” – Dimitar Sasselov, Bulgarian astronomer based in the United States. He is a Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University and director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative.

In the beginning, people’s knowledge about the stars was limited by the power of their own eyes. The inventions of lenses, mirrors, and eventually the telescope made it possible to see more things clearly. The history of astronomy is tied to the development of the telescope, since we need to observe things in order to understand them.

Refracting Telescope

In 1608 Hans Lippershey (or Lipperhey), a Dutch eyeglass maker, was the first man to apply for a patent for the telescope. Others also claimed to be the inventor, but the Dutch government accepted his patent as the first.

Hans Lippershey (or Lipperhey)

Hans Lippershey

While the earliest telescopes only magnified things a few times, Galileo Galilei worked hard and was able to eventually make his telescope magnify things till they were 10 times larger. By 1610, Galileo had a telescope that magnified 30 times. He was able to see craters on the moon and even the moons orbiting the planet Jupiter.

Galileo's ink drawings of the moon. Credit: NASA

Galileo’s ink drawings of the moon. Credit: NASA

A 1754 painting by H.J. Detouche shows Galileo Galilei displaying his telescope to Leonardo Donato and the Venetian Senate.

A 1754 painting by H.J. Detouche shows Galileo Galilei displaying his telescope to Leonardo Donato and the Venetian Senate.

Johannes Kepler also improved upon the early refracting telescopes.  Instead of a concave and a convex lens, he tried two convex lenses.  (Concave lenses curve inward, like a bowl, while convex lenses curve out.) The largest refracting telescope ever built had a lens 40 inches wide.  It opened in 1897 at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin.

A 1610 portrait of Johannes Kepler by an unknown artist

A 1610 portrait of Johannes Kepler by an unknown artist

Yerkes Refractor Telescope, 1897

Yerkes Refractor Telescope, 1897

Yerkes Refractor Telescope, 2006

Yerkes Refractor Telescope, 2006

Reflecting Telescope

Sir Isaac Newton studied Kepler’s work and decided it might be a better idea to build a telescope using mirrors instead of lenses. Mirrors reflect light, while lenses allow light to pass through them and bend (refract) the light.  In 1668 he built the first practical reflecting telescope. For many years scientists used both refracting and reflecting telescopes, but the reflector became the favorite of astronomers.

Diagram of Isaac Newton's reflecting telescope, from the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1672.

Diagram of Isaac Newton’s reflecting telescope, 1672. Image courtesy of the Royal Society of London.

Edwin Hubble

Edwin Hubble at the eyepiece of the 100″ Hooker Reflecting Telescope [Photograph by Margaret Bourke-White/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images]

In the 1920’s most STEMists believed the universe was static (unchanging) in size.  But then came along astronomer Edwin Hubble in 1929 who published his findings that the universe is expanding! He did not directly see the universe expand like a balloon but calculated the velocity of light spectra from far away galaxies.  (Light from a galaxy has specific characteristics, spectrum, based on the make-up or composition of the galaxy.) From these calculations, Edwin Hubble determined that nearly all galaxies are moving away from us, and the farther the galaxies are from us, the faster they are moving … the universe is expanding!

Modern Telescopes

Karl Guthe Jansky detected radio waves in outer space in 1931. This discovery inspired engineers to develop radio telescopes and other types of telescopes for measuring and mapping microwaves, gamma rays, and other electromagnetic radiation. These telescopes helped scientists “see” invisible radiation and use it to detect objects such as pulsars.

Hubble Space Telescope Is The GROOVIEST!

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990 with the Space Shuttle Discovery. Since then, it has been in a low orbit around the earth. The Hubble Space Telescope is a reflecting telescope that also has digital cameras and satellite communications so it can send us groovy images. These images are clearer than earthbound astronomers can see because the Hubble is outside earth’s atmosphere and gets a clearer view of distant objects. The Hubble is the only telescope designed to be adjusted and repaired in space by astronauts.

Hubble Telescope

Hubble Space Telescope in a low orbit around the earth.

Groovy Images From The Hubble Space Telescope!

“We are like mayflies, fleeting ephemeral creatures who live out their lives in the course of a single day.” – Carl Sagan

A replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, is planned for launch in 2018. There are always ways to improve the telescope, so we never stop adding to our knowledge of the stars.
JWST-big

Moon Dance” Groovy Lab in a Box

If your STEMist loves telescopes and star stuff, be sure to check out our “Moon Dance” groovy box – explore Earth’s moon, gravity, mass vs. weight, moon phases, tides, light, telescopes and much, much, more.  Join Now! and challenge your STEMists to a monthly Groovy Lab in a Box, full of everything a child needs to learn about and do hands-on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) investigations and engineering design challenges. Our monthly box activates thinking, questioning, inquiring and original creation as we guide children through scientific inquiry and the engineering design process.

A groovy thank you to Oh, Star Stuff for providing some of the groovy Hubble Space Telescope images above.

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