Universe: How We Know What We Know

Science ObjectDigital resources are stored online in your NSTA Library.

Science Objects are two hour on-line interactive inquiry-based content modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach. This Science Object, co-developed between NASA and NSTA, is the first of five Science Objects in the Universe SciPack. It explores the methods and tools used by astronomers to study the universe and the various objects that make up the known universe. What we know about the universe today is a result of increasingly sophisticated technologies that allow astronomers to capture and study incoming light from the universe across many different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, as well as use computers to analyze data. Astronomers study the position and motion of objects, as well as the color and intensity of the light coming from those objects. These observations help determine the distances of those objects, their composition, and the processes at work.

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Reviews (7)
  • on Tue May 05, 2015 1:20 PM

This is a really neat activity. This being one of my weaknesses it helped me learn a lot. It helped me re-learn and learn concepts I will need to know to earn my science credentials in order to be a science teacher. Its a great introduction to the stars and the universe. It truly had great material to take with me as a future teacher and even to share with my students.

Caitlin Quigley  (Brant, MI)
Caitlin Quigley (Brant, MI)

  • on Wed Sep 03, 2014 5:56 AM

I really enjoy Science Objects. In 1-3 hours, the Universe: How We Know What We Know Science Object will help me re-learn, refresh, or learn for the first time some critical science concepts I will have to know to obtain my Science Educator credentials. I appreciate that I can complete them at my own pace, and that, if used as park of a SciPack, I have access to a content expert to go to for help. The NSTA Learning Center Science Objects are very beneficial! Not only do they enrich my teaching, the knowledge enriches my life as well!.

Naomi Beverly  (Marietta, GA)
Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA)

  • on Sat Dec 29, 2012 10:42 PM

This was a neat activity and well thought out but kinda hidden. As a SOFIA Airborne Astronomer Ambassador, I was delighted to find the Proposed Project #7 to be "...an infrared telescope carried by an airplane high above the clouds" to be appropriate for funding.

James Johnson  (Custer City, PA)
James Johnson (Custer City, PA)

  • on Tue Dec 27, 2011 11:04 PM

Great introduction to stars and the universe. From an introduction of the electromagnetic spectrum (radio-infrared- visible (ROY G BiV)- ultraviolet-xrays-gamma) to the various types of telescopes, this resource takes you on a wonderful journey with an explanation of the characteristics of stars (color, temperature, and chemical composition). Good material to share with students; the graphics and videos help to further one’s understanding of the distance of stars and how telescopes are used to collet and focus light (and other forms of electromagnetic radiation).

Lorrie Armfield  (Laurel, MD)
Lorrie Armfield (Laurel, MD)

  • on Tue Mar 18, 2014 9:53 AM

This science object does a great job of laying the foundational knowledge for how we understand space. Some of the questions push beyond the material covered in the object, but they act as a way to get the learner to make inferences and consider the topic more deeply. The only reason I rate this as a four instead of a five is that it was sometimes verbose and could have utilized some more interactivity.


  • on Tue Dec 27, 2011 3:21 PM

The comparisions of hot and cold and how we know it are helpful to common misconceptions we will be faced with in the classroom as we talk about colors. Also, the different types of telescopes that are used is helpful to read and learn about.

Kelly  (Brewster, NY)
Kelly (Brewster, NY)

  • on Sat Oct 22, 2011 4:04 PM

This is a wonderful program to get ready to teach about starts and the spectrum. Might also be good for students to review on computers as well.

Donald B  (Stafford, VA)
Donald B (Stafford, VA)

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