Exoplanet Detector Experiment #2987


I always love having my students create their own designs so that I can add the A into STEAM!


I LOVE this project idea of yours with the bottle caps! What a fun way to dd the A in STEAM! Thanks for sharing!


Love your “Cat in the Hat”! It is PERFECT for this week and Read Across America! Love the idea as well! I have a TON of caps and never thought to use it like this! :slight_smile: Thanks!


I loved the “maker” aspect of this experiment as we are a STEAM school. We already do a lesson called “Strange New Planet” through my CAP curriculum and this would tie into that perfectly. I also learned all about Exoplanets and detecting them when I was going through my Masters Astronomy course to be a NASA Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Airborne Astronomy Ambassador. It brought back fun memories of flying with the astronomers on SOFIA. We were studying the rotational pattern of the interstellar dust around the super-massive black hole in the center of our Milky Way galaxy.
I loved the role-play part of this where students could work together to be the “planet” and the scientist collecting the data. I definitely LOVED the tie to SPACE this week. I also enjoyed the Exoplanet Video.


Thanks for sharing! Some fun additional ideas to incorporate into space-themed lessons!


I really like how this lesson takes something like exoplanets that seem so far and distant and make this easy and accessible for students. You could complete the lesson as is and students would enjoy it. You could add on to the lesson by having students alter the sensor and asking if an object could go ‘undetected’ when it passes infront of the sun.

You could also use this similar concept as students have to build a spacecraft that blocks solar radiation by having the student put the sensor inside their “spacecraft” and taking a reading. The design that blocks the most radiation (has the lowest reading on the luminosity sensor) would be the design that is most successful.


The solar radiation project is a great idea! Some students were making Moon bases for a project and wanted to test materials that block the radiation. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any sensors at the time. Your idea could be something to include next year!


We do a lot of work with our local NASA Educational Resource Center. This would be a great project to work with them on. We used to do space all summer, but have recently cut it down to one week. This project would give us a great introduction to what NASA is doing, and how they are doing it. I know I never really understood how regular people were finding planets. I think this gives us a clue and would spark curiosity in my students.


Awesome idea with the spacecraft!


A great way to incorporate NASA methods!


Where does this lesson fit in with your curriculum (if the lesson is not a fit for the class you teach, how could the lesson be modified so that it is applicable to your curriculum)?

I teach a flight and space unit, but do not really get into planets. My unit focus is mostly on the flight and living aspects of space travel. I am not sure how this would fit.

I was able to get the LED to work, but only if I totally covered the sensor board. It did not seem to matter what lux values I used. I could also see the waveforms/data changing. Not sure what the issue is, but hopefully I can find out later with more experimentation.

Which part or parts of the lesson would your students need extra support in order to be successful?

The connection was not an issue and viewing the waveforms/data. However, students need to understand what they are actually looking at. There would have to be some discussion of light properties and LUX values. I do not have the prerequisite background knowledge, so would have to learn this content myself.

If you were to teach this lesson to your class, describe your role during the class. What does a successful teacher actively do during this lesson?

I definitely would have to do some direct instruction with this activity. Maybe not at first, but would definitely have to when it comes to reading and understand the data. The LED did not want to initially work (wobbled), so might have to assist in troubleshooting the board or LED.

If you were to teach this lesson to your class, describe your student’s role during the class. What does “student success” look like?

My courses are mostly project-based learning (PBL), so students are in charge of their own learning. Success would be a student being able to complete activity, understand, and be able to apply what was learned to future lessons. However, I am not sure I would even do this activity.

It does not really fit with my content and would have to learn about planets and analyzing data.


This would definitely fit into astronomy. Initially, could not get the LED to work because it was too loose. I just spread out the legs and it lit consistently. However, I never really got it to work with the light source and pin…just covering the detector with my hand.


I think it is great you teach so much space and flight content. You could do stomp rockets for 1st grade.
I think you would have to rewrite/simplify the idea of luminosity and planet identification. Not sure how to do it right now, but check the NASA site. They have had a cash infusion and are starting to put out more educational content.


Great tip on spreading/bending the legs inorder to get better contact in the Arduino pins! The Arduino pins don’t grip the legs of LED as nicely as a breadboard.


Great to know about these additional resources from NASA!


I’m a bit behind…whoops! I really enjoyed this and found the webinar fascinating. I had no clue how they discovered exoplanets! I definitely see applications for this in my classroom in science as we discuss properties of objects in the solar system (I can expand to objects in other solar systems!) and also this can have some great tie ins with analyzing data! The students always need more practice with that! I can imagine them having to match a model of an exoplanet with the correct data. So many applications!


So glad to hear that you enjoyed the webinar!


While I really look forward to using the light sensors for our activities on light (we already do a spectrometer lab) I’m not sure this exact lesson fits into my curriculum this year since were not doing much with planetary science.

I think this lesson would be fairly simple for my students to complete assuming I had enough sensors for the demonstration.

As with previous lessons I think this activity would be done well if I gave students instructions and then supported groups individually as they work.

In this activity I would have my students pay attention to the instructions and then follow the lesson.


I’m really liking the coding aspects of these activities. I don’t get to do nearly as much with coding in class as I’d like to but my school has an after school coding club that I have been sharing these lessons with.


Awesome that you have the students work with a spectrometer!