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LiveFrom the Hubble Space Telescope

Teacher's Guide

Activity 4A - Writing Across the Solar System

Objective expand geography art gif

Students will demonstrate their ability to synthesize what they've learned du ring the project by creating literary works of fact, fiction and/or poetry.


Ask students about various ways people learn about the sky and objects in space. If they mention only books or programs about science, help expand their horizons. Read them a few poems about the stars, or a science fiction short story, or perhaps a Native American legend about the sky. (See Resources for several easily accessible examples.) Ask them to think about how such writings complement what science tells us. Ask them to think about the social role played by story-telling under the stars, at night around a camp-fire, before there were movies and television to entertain us. Share with them some of the examples of student writing about the stars spread throughout this Guide, and on-line resulting from Live from the Stratosphere.

explore/ explain

Tell the class that they are going to explore space using the tools of written and/or oral expression. Challenge them to reach inside themselves for feelings they experience as they look up at a starry sky or gaze at exotic pictures of other worlds in books or magazines. Don't encourage sentimentality: if you live in an urban area, and they look up and see just sky glow, ask them to write about the contrast between what they know must be out there, and what they can actually observe. If they've been moved by an Imax movie, such as Destiny in Space, or a planetarium show they can certainly jump off from there. Tell them that the only limit is their imagination.

Procedure Assign students to discussion and work teams, or have them work solo. Have them research the planets of our solar system, or other objects in the universe, using the resources suggested for Activity 1B, but adding works of science fiction (especially short stories), poetry, or legends and tales from ancient mythology (Greco-Roman, Chinese, etc.), as well as various modern and near-modern cultures.

Ask them to choose and develop a subject and a form of expression. They may wish to write a short story set in the future, or a poem about a starry night last summer. If they are interested in story-telling as oral tradition, have them make-believe they are the chief storyteller of an ancient tribe, who tonight will gather the people and tell them a story of the sky. (Hint: the names of the Constellations are an obvious starting point for stories explaining the "pictures in the sky.")


When all the students have completed their assignments, have them present or perform their works in front of the class. Class discussion can follow about how such forms of expression complement what we know, through science, about the universe. Students wishing to write a short story may set it at some point when humans have reached out to one of the HST's target planets. If so, have them incorporate what they've learned about that planet from this Live from... project. Challenge them to take into account the scientific wonders they will see, as well as the hazards they might face (intense radiation or the tedium of long-term space flight).

Some students might want to take on the challenge of writing a science fiction story in which the HST is the main character (like HAL in 2001) and the reader sees and "feels" the excitement of exploration and discovery through the camera eyes and computer brain of the HST itself. How does the Hubble "feel" when these humans periodically come and go, doing eye-surgery, prodding and poking, and then leaving until the next servicing mission? How does Hubble feel, sharing the starlight with these puny, so-called astronauts, when it's he/she (there's a discussion to be had right there!) who's the true seer for the humans down on Earth?

Sharing student work via on-line Kids' Corner
Many of the Activities in this Guide provide opportunities to integrate technology in teaching and learning through the use of computer-based art, word processing, desktop publishing, and multimedia applications. Passport to Knowledge invites educators to submit student work to be shared on-line via Kids' Corner, a gallery of student creativity from participating classrooms. Be sure to save your students' work to Mac or IBM diskette, and clearly label file names, content, teacher, grade, school, full address, phone number, and other relevant background information. Send the diskette(s) to:
Marc Siegel, NASA Ames Research Center, Mailstop T-28H, Moffett Field, CA 94035

Student-created image and text files will be added to Kids' Corner as appropriate. Individual student e-mail addresses will not be included. Student name, school names, location, grade level will be cited, unless requested otherwise.

Activity 4B: "Lights... Camera... the Universe"

Objective tech ed gif expand art gif computer gif

Students will collaborate and demonstrate the ability to use research, writing and presentation skills to create a multimedia report based on HST observations of the solar system or the Universe at large.

Ask students to think of ways that images and sound work together (TV commercials, videos on MTV and VH-1, animated and feature films). Ask them to think about how and why directors and writers compose words, music and pictures as they do. Say their homework is to become students of the media, to become media-literate. Tell them they will then have a chance to become multimedia authors, producers and directors, rather than passive consumers.

Do such works sometimes take their audience to places that are impossible to visit by any current technology, to a "Land before Time," on voyages of the Starship Enterprise in a future yet to come? Help them differentiate between fact and fiction, between science documentaries and dramatic imagination. Tell students of the impact made by works of fiction, such as H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds and Jules Verne's fictional trips to the moon, on the inventors of modern rocketry. Like art and science, fact and fiction are sometimes complementary. The trick, however, is always to know one from the other when it counts!

explore/ explain

Encourage students to research the subject by looking at illustrated articles in magazines such as Odyssey, Astronomy and Sky & Telescope, as well, perhaps, as TV shows such as Star Trek or Babylon 5. Have them write and present an analysis of a piece they find compelling. Remind them that they are watching TV to learn ways in which images articulate the story. You can order slide sets by famous space artists for your class: see Resources for other suggestions.

Have them select a genre for their work. If they choose realism, challenge them to research the science behind the scenes they're going to create. What physical processes are at work? Does their planet have huge storms, gigantic lightning bolts or other interesting features? (see Activity 3C for a list of interplanetary weather.) How can this be effectively shown? If they choose fiction or fantasy, challenge them to develop a coherent, detailed vision of a world. What is this place like? How does it resemble or differ from our own world? (Space artist Adolf Schaller conjured up "Hunters, Floaters and Sinkers," hypothetical life-forms which might exist in the clouds of Jupiter, and an entire ecosystem of hunters and prey: fantasy, sure, but based on substance. Encourage similar creative leaps.)

  • recorded music excerpts (examples: the classical music suite The Planets by Gustav Holst, Japanese composer Kitaro's film scores, works by Vangelis-Bladerunner, Chariots of Fire; the Music of Cosmos compilation soundtrack, or other music your students choose.)
  • pictures from books, magazines, computer archive or Internet, especially NASA public domain images
  • still camera, color slide film, slide projector
  • audio tape player
  • appropriate materials from art class
  • computer Draw and Paint programs, if available

Procedure Have the students form creative teams. Each team will create a presentation utilizing no more than 2 minutes of music, and no more than 24 slides. Ask each team to pick a planet, and search books, magazines, and Internet sites, for pictures of that planet and its satellites.

Show students how to make slides of these pictures and images by properly pointing and focusing the camera. Don't use flash. Do use a tripod! Suggest they photograph books and magazines outside, or near a daylit window in indirect light if they are using film that is marked for daylight use. Photograph images from a computer screen in a darkened room to reduce glare.

As they are considering the pictures they'll use, have the students also listen to music for their presentation. Ask them to think about what type of music comes to mind when they look at the pictures, but encourage them to experiment with different kinds of music. Expose the techno fans to Holst, and the violinists to rock. But let them end up feeling that the choice is fully theirs.

When the Big Day arrives, have the teams of students introduce and perform their presentations. Depending on the social dynamics of your class, you might want to have a "Golden Planets-Students' Choice Award" for the "best" in the various categories.


If some students enjoy playing musical instruments, or creating music, allow them to tape their own music for the audio portion of a presentation.

Suggest to the Principal that your students might present to the school, to lower grades, to a PTA meeting (especially if your department needs extra support funds!), to the school board, if it has questions about just what those modems and computers do, or to local citizens on election day. Your students will gain confidence in themselves as authors, as teachers, as well as learners.

Have your students investigate the world of Space Art in greater depth including the International Astronomical Artists' Association and NASA's Artist in Space program. Discuss the role that art plays in our exploration of space and our attempts, as human beings, to better understand how we fit into the "big picture" called the Universe. Review your students' work for Activity 4A or 4B. What knowledge, concepts, processes, skills, attitudes, do you see evidenced there which you can attribute to their involvement in Live from the Hubble Space Telescope? How does this relate to your school, district, state mandates, or course of instruction. Now turn to the Teacher Evaluation Forms, fill 'em out and send 'em in... and 500 of you will receive a free copy of NASA's Astronomy Village CD-ROM.

Lastly, assemble copies of your students' work, on paper, videotape, or computer disc, and ship to Passport to Knowledge, P.O. Box 1502, Summit, New Jersey 07902-1502, clearly indicating whether you need the materials back, and whether we have permission to use them for project evaluation. PTK hopes to create its own multimedia report on the new territories of knowledge and imagination your students have been exploring.

Activity 4C - Hubble in the Headlines

Objective tech ed gif expand geography computer gif

Students will demonstrate the ability to discuss and debate the value to society of major scientific and technological enterprises such as HST.


Passport to Knowledge feels privileged to have helped construct this unprecedented bridge between students and the Hubble Space Telescope. (Review LHST Program 1, "The Great Planet Debate") Explain what a truly world-class facility the Hubble is. As you'll learn from LHST, the Hubble was much in the news in early 1996, with a whole range of discoveries. Incredible numbers of faint galaxies were detected where none had been seen before. Spectacular regions of star birth were visualized in astonishing detail (as on the co-packaged poster); and planets were detected around distant stars. By getting their "virtual" hands on the Hubble, your students become members of a very select group of astronomers and scientists.

explore/ expand

Tell students that when Hubble was first launched, astronomers were horrified to learn an imperfection in the construction of the mirror meant images were out of focus. Some in the press and public wrote off the Hubble and "big science" as too expensive, risky, and complex. Efforts by workers at many institutions in NASA and outside the agency-some of whom your students will "meet" on-camera or on-line-placed corrective optics and a new camera system (which we are using to image Neptune) aboard the Hubble, in the first of several always-planned servicing missions. Now Hubble's eye is crystal clear, and the science it had already accomplished took off.

Procedure Have students research the 1995-1996 Hubble discoveries, especially those not yet in textbooks: use on-line services, and current magazines. Tap libraries for books about HST which describe its initial problems, and the technical fixes which have made it the superb tool it is today. If you have access, download some of the discuss-hst archive, and see students' initial reasons for wanting to observe specific planets. Review our Planet Advocates' eloquent comments: how studying impacts on Uranus can give clues to the evolution of life on Earth, or how weather on Jupiter or Neptune can reveal new information about our own planet. Marc Buie is concerned with vision and human destiny, as well as scientific knowledge. He argued that our species always looks to new frontiers, such as Pluto, the only planet in our solar system not reconnoitered by our spacecraft, and that this is what keeps young minds and imaginations ("lifelong learners of all ages") engaged and growing.

Brainstorm these issues with students: elicit their opinions, provoke their comments. Group them into teams, based upon natural inclinations ("pro" or "con" Big science and projects like the Hubble), and have them research their opinion for a formal in-class discussion or debate. Remind them that in debate, success often comes to those who understand the best arguments of their opponents, not just their own.

Stage the debate. Record the arguments on audio or videotape. Have students edit the "official transcript" for the school, or local newspaper. As with Activity 4B, look over your students' arguments. What knowledge, concepts, processes, skills, attitudes, do you see evidenced which you can attribute to their involvement in Live from the Hubble Space Telescope? How does this relate to your school, district, and state mandates, or course of instruction. (Again, please turn to the teacher and student evaluation pages and fill 'em out and send 'em in.)


Astronomical unit (A.U.) the average distance between the Earth and the Sun (app. 93 
million miles, 150 million kilometers).
Atmosphere gases surrounding the surface of a planet, moon or star.
Blurring the bending (refraction) of waves of visible light or other electromagnetic 
radiation by Earth's atmosphere, thus preventing an observer from obtaining as clear a 
view as possible.
Ccd a charge coupled device, an electronic detector of electromagnetic radiation, made of 
silicon chips that respond to incoming radiation by producing an electric current.
Centigrade (or celsius) temperature scale the scale of temperature that registers the freezing 
point of water as 00 and the boiling point as 1000 .
Color the visual perception of an object, which for a radiating object can often be 
considered an indicator of temperature.
Comet a small ball of rock and ice, typically a few kilometers across, from which emanates 
a long wispy tail of gas and dust while nearing the Sun in a huge, elongated orbit.
Concave lens/mirror a lens or mirror with an inward curvature.
Convection cell the physical upwelling of hot matter, thus transporting energy from a 
lower, hotter region to a higher, cooler region.
Diffraction grating a filter ruled with thousands of closely spaced parallel lines, thus 
causing reflected radiation to spread into its constituent wavelengths and frequencies.
Electromagnetic spectrum the entire range of all the various kinds of radiation; light (or the 
visible spectrum) comprises just one small segment of this much broader spectrum.
Energy the ability to do work.
ESA the European Space Agency, whose thirteen members are Austria, Belgium, 
Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, 
Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Finland is an associate member and Canada a 
cooperating state.
Extraterrestrial an adjective meaning "beyond the Earth."
Filter wheels aboard Space Telescope, wheels that hold 48 different filters, each of which 
removes electromagnetic radiation at particular frequencies and wavelengths from the beam 
of incoming radiation.
Fine guidance sensor (fgs) a device sensitive to ultraviolet and visible light, used aboard 
Space Telescope to detect guide stars astride the telescope's field of view, and thus to direct 
the telescope accurately toward a particular target.
Fixed head star trackers small telescopes with a wide field of view aboard Space 
Telescope, used to find relatively bright stars to serve as preliminary guide stars, in order 
for the fine guidance sensors to track the actual, fainter guide stars.
Geosynchronous orbit an orbit around the Earth at an altitude where a satellite moves at 
just the speed at which the planet rotates; hence, an orbit in which an orbiting satellite 
remains nearly stationary above a particular point on the planet.
Goddard Space Flight Center (gsfc) Nasa's field center in Greenbelt, Maryland, from 
which the Space Telescope is controlled.
Gravitational force the (always attractive) force that holds matter together on a large scale, 
such as stars within galaxies, atoms within stars, and people on Earth. (Gravity: an 
abbreviated term for gravitational force.) 
Great Red Spot a semi-permanent feature in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter, apparently a 
sort of cyclone, several times larger than the Earth.
Interplanetary space regions among the planets, moons, and related objects of the solar 
Jovian planets the four, big, gassy planets in the outer parts of the solar system; Jupiter, 
Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
Kilometer a unit of distance equal to 0.6214 miles.
Light the kind of radiation to which the human eye is sensitive.
Light-year the distance traveled by light in a full year, equal to some 10 trillion kilometers 
(or about 6 trillion miles).
Mercator map a map projection in which the meridians are drawn parallel to each other and 
the parallels of latitude are straight lines whose distance from each other increases with their 
distance from the equator.
Milky Way Galaxy the specific galaxy to which the Sun belongs, so named because most 
of its visible stars appear overhead on a clear, dark night as a milky band of light extending 
across the sky.
Orbit a path described by one body in its revolution about another (as by a planet around 
the Sun).
Pixel a single element in an image, corresponding to a single dot in a mosaic picture.
Planet a rocky and/or gaseous body, generally much cooler and smaller than a star; the 
Earth is one such planet in orbit around the Sun.
Primary mirror the main mirror of a reflecting telescope, which gathers electromagnetic 
radiation and directs it toward a smaller secondary mirror, which in turn brings the 
radiation to a focus.
Prime focus the place to which a telescope initially directs its collected radiation.
Radiation a form of energy, consisting of mass-less particles called photons, which travels 
at the speed of light.
Reflecting telescope a telescope that uses a polished, curved mirror to gather light and 
reflect it to a focus.
Refracting telescope a telescope that uses a transparent lens to gather light and bend it to a 
Revolution the orbital motion of one object about another.
Rotation the spin of an object about its own axis.
Satellite a celestial body orbiting another of larger size.
Scientific method the investigative technique used by all natural scientists throughout the 
world. In general, some data or ideas are first gathered, then a theory is proposed to 
explain these hypotheses and 
finally an experiment is devised to test the theory.
Secondary atmosphere gases that a planet exhales from its interior after having lost its 
primary or primordial atmosphere.
Secondary mirror in a reflecting telescope, a small mirror mounted in the beam of radiation 
that strikes the primary mirror, and from which radiation is reflected and brought into 
Solar system a collection of 1 star, 9 planets, 60 moons, and innumerable smaller objects 
(asteroids, comets, meteoroids) orbiting about the Sun; both the Sun and Earth are 
members of the solar system.
Space Telescope Science Institute (stsci) an international research center operated by Aura 
for Nasa and located at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, from which Space 
Telescope's science mission is designed and conducted, and where data is archived.
Tdrs Nasa's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, a network of communication 
satellites high in geosynchronous orbit, used to relay data from Space Telescope to Earth 
and to relay commands from Earth to Space Telescope.
Temperature a measure of the heat of an object, namely of the average kinetic energy of the 
randomly-moving particles in an object.
Terrestrial planets the four, small, rocky planets in the inner part of the solar system: 
Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.
Wavelength the distance between successive crests of a wave.
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