X-ray Spectroscopy and the Chemistry of Supernova Remnants


Students will read and write about the chemistry and spectroscopy of stars and supernova remnants, as well as understand their relevance and impact on human life. Students will also learn about cutting edge technology that will help us to build better instruments with which to study the Universe.

Each section has several pages of background material relevant to the associated activities and the lesson plan as a whole. The background sections include short exercises or thought questions developed to help the student reach a better understanding of the material presented. Each section also has activies developed by real teachers – designed to bring important concepts in astronomy right into the classroom. Each activity is correlated to national science and math standards for grades 9-12. These activities show how interelated chemistry, physics, and astronomy really are.

Outline of Unit

This unit is also available in PDF form using the download links at the bottom of this page.

Part I: How and Where are Elements Created?

Part II: What is Electromagnetic (EM) Radiation? How is it created in atoms? What units are used to characterize EM radiation?

Part III: What tools are used to identify elements? What importance do X-rays have to astronomy?

  • Background: Introduction to Spectroscopy – Everything you ever wanted to know about spectroscopy but were afraid to ask!
  • Activity: Graphing Spectra – Practice drawing graphs of spectra, and understanding the different ways spectra can be represented, as well as what each representation can tell us.
  • Activity: Flame Test – A chemistry experiment that show how heated elements emit different colors of light.
  • Activity: Design an Element Poster Advertisement – Students will discuss what they have learned about atoms and elements in their own words, designing a poster advertisement for their chosen element. Students will use more than just their right brain to think about science!

Part IV: How does the newest technology help us to understand the Universe?

Download links

  • Download entire unit in one file: Word, PDF
  • Download each Part:
  • Download just the student readings: Word, PDF
  • Download just the student worksheets: Word, PDF
  • Download keys to selected student worksheets: Word, PDF