Monday, April 26, 2021

Homeschool Science: Build a Paper Model of a Telescope

Will and I have been ambling along her astronomy study at a very leisurely pace, which is... not terribly clever of us, as we'd have been much better off doing night sky observations during those clear, early winter nights than we will all summer in the middle of the freaking night trying to look through heat distortion, sigh.

The fact that it was overcast the entirety of February didn't help, but whatever. Leisurely-paced science studies are our specialty, it seems!

That being said, it is really just the observations that are hanging us up, as Will is totally caught up on the readings and we've done tons of interesting non-observation hands-on activities, including this project of creating a paper model of a telescope.

Big telescopes are fascinating evidence of the progression of scientific knowledge. They're cutting edge when they're created, but because they're used as long as possible, they're often outmoded well before they're retired. Will and I have enjoyed learning the history of several big telescopes around the world; interestingly, we were actually studying this at the time of Arecibo's collapse, so we got to watch history happening while we were learning about it!

Building a paper model of a telescope isn't intrinsically necessary for learning about big telescopes and how they work, but it is a fun hands-on activity that invites deeper exploration of how the parts of one specific telescope work, and how it comes together into a whole. 

Will built a model of an ALMA 12-Meter Antenna:

And I think it turned out really well!

Of course, to be perfectly accurate, she'd need to build 65 more just like this one, because the ALMA is actually a 66-antenna array.

Along with her model, Will researched and wrote a detailed history of the telescope and explanation of how and why it works. The project obviously has pride of place on our family room shelves, now, because I'm never going to recycle something this awesome!

It would be interesting to visit a working observatory one day. The kids and I visited Lowell Observatory back when they were small, but honestly, they mostly just remember the hotel pools from that trip...

Here are some other paper telescope models:

  • NASA paper telescope models. There are so many paper telescope models to choose from here!
  • NAOJ paper telescope models. Will's ALMA telescope came from here! This site is fun because as well as telescopes, you can also build their control buildings or transporters. You know, for your entire model telescope world!
  • Subaru telescope. This paper model is on the printables site for Canon, so it's worth exploring all the other interesting paper models they've got, too. I wish I'd seen the ones for the moving Copernican and Ptolemaic systems when we were studying them!
  • working telescope model. This isn't a model of a big telescope, but instead an actual working telescope. Younger students can use it to learn how telescopes work.

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