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Edinburgh Astronomy `Cosmology' Teaching Package

Included films

All films are high quality 1:1 scale copies of UKST IIIa-J (Blue-filtered) plates.
  1. J2137 - Asteroids, Ecliptic, also Virgo galaxy cluster.
  2. J9187 - Asteroids, Ecliptic.
  3. J10922T - Comet Halley, 9 March 1986.
  4. J10831T - Comet Halley, 10 March 1986.
  5. J1564 - Galactic plane, Milky Way.
  6. J2155 - Galactic plane, Milky Way.
  7. J7442 - Galactic Pole, Hydra Cluster (AKA Abell 1060).
  8. J10188P - Objective Prism, same field as J1564.
  9. J9036P - Objective Prism, same field as J9187.


Two (different) film copies include areas of the sky close to the ecliptic and each contains the images of several tens of asteroids. The student searches the film for asteroids, discovers the existence of the asteroid belt and, using Newtonian gravity and Kepler's third law, is able to calculate the distance of the belt from the Sun. Some mathematical ability is required to follow the derivation of the distance equation, but the exercise can be carried out without this derivation.

Comet Halley

Film copies of Comet Halley taken 24 hours apart are provided. The student shows that the tail of the comet points directly away from the Sun and calculates the motion of the comet across the sky. The existence of the Solar Wind is also demonstrated. Basic trigonometry is required for this chapter and the material is divided into several exercises which can be worked-through up to a level that is considered suitable for the students (and the time available).

Sample Exercise: Ex. I To show that the comet's tail points away from the Sun.
Download this exercise as a (unix) compressed postscript [155 Kb] or (PC) ZIPped postscript [125 Kb]

CAVEAT: This is a preliminary version and may be changed in the near future.
We would appreciate any comments you have to make about this exercise.


For this exercise prints, rather than films, are used. The student is asked to determine the size of the Supernova Remnant given its age and distance (known from radio observations). A series of prints of Supernova 1987a in the LMC allows the student to plot the light curve of this supernova over several months. The first exercise involves measuring and graph-plotting. The second exercise requires some basic trigonometry.

The Milky Way Galaxy

Two films of different areas illustrate many different types of object found in the plane of the Milky Way; star clusters, planetary nebulae and dust clouds can be easily seen. The first exercise provides an introduction to the subject of star formation and stellar evolution. Simple counting exercises allow the student to deduce the mass of dust clouds. Comparison of the star density on these films to that on high latitude films gives a clue to the structure of the Milky Way. The second and third exercises are more challenging than previous chapters in terms of scientific concepts and their associated mathematics.

Sample Exercise: Ex. II Star counting in Herschel's Universe.
Download this exercise as a (unix) compressed postscript [86 Kb] or (PC) ZIPped postscript [65Kb]

CAVEAT: This is a preliminary version and may be changed in the near future.
We would appreciate any comments you have to make about this exercise.


Two films at high galactic latitude include images of many different galaxies. One film is centred on the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies and the other on the Hydra Cluster of Galaxies. Both films include examples of most galaxy types as well as illustrating a cluster of galaxies. The student learns to classify galaxies and to recognise the difficulties in such work from the random orientations present. The student is also able to recognise clusters of galaxies and to use Hubble's Law to calculate their distances. These exercises provide the most obvious lead-in to the subject of cosmology and the `Big Bang'.

Spectroscopic Studies

Films of photographs taken with the objective prism allow simple stellar classification to be attempted. One film is of the Milky Way and another of a high latitude field. The student is introduced to the relationship between absorption features in stellar spectra and physical properties such as chemical composition and surface temperature. The student discovers that different types of star populate the different regions of the Galaxy. These exercises can be adapted and shortened to introduce aspects of stellar physics such as the relationships between mass, luminosity and temperature.

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Last Update: 2 May 1998