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Why do we have days and nights? Why do the seasons spring, summer, autumn, and winter last for as long as they do? The common answer to these questions (and many more) is the motion of the Sun and Moon relative to the Earth.


GalileoMobile, Constellation project:

1: The size of the Earth

Here are the student activities I helped develop as part of the GalileoMobile team that organised the Constellation Project.


The Constellation Project aimed to establish a South American network of schools committed to the long-term organisation of astronomical outreach activities amongst their pupils and local communities. The project involved twenty schools in six countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru), directly reaching at least 100 teachers and 6,000 pupils. Thanks to the long-term sustainability of the project, even more pupils will benefit through events organised independently by the schools.


The Constellation Project activities are available for download below. They allow students (with a basic level of mathematical understanding) to discover fundamental aspects of our solar system by actually carrying out famous experiments themselves!

Activity 1: The size of the Earth:

Have you ever wondered how big the Earth is? How far it is to the very centre of our planet? These may seem to be very complicated problems, that require complicated instruments and methods, but they’re not! You only need a few minutes, some simple material, and friends from another school to get an accurate answer!

2: Motion of the Sun & Moon

Activity 2: The motion of the Earth, Sun and Moon:

The Sun is a fairly typical star, similar to the thousands you can see in the night sky! The temperature across most of the surface of the Sun is incredibly high. But there are some small regions that are colder, called sunspots. Their number increases and decreases with time, over an 11 year cycle, and we can use them to directly estimate the rotational period of the Sun.

3: Rotation of the Sun

Activity 3: Sunspots & the rotation of the Sun:

Given the large number of exoplanets constantly being discovered, one cannot help but wonder what these worlds are like. Each solar system can be very different from the next, but there are key properties that scientists look for when deciding if one is capable of hosting life on one of its planets. Can you design a solar system that is capable of supporting life?!

Activity 4: Create your own solar system:

4a: Create your solar system 4b: Does it support life?!

4) Press releases for D'Ai et al. 2016:

   'Young Magnetar Likely the Slowest Pulsar Ever Detected'

Press & Media...

A list of public-access articles, reviews, and press releases related to my work.

3) Max-Planck-Gesellschaft Yearbook 2014:

   'Metals in galaxies: Is what we see what we expect?'

2) Springer Books: Astronomy and Astrophysics Review:

   'Star formation sustained by gas accretion'

1) MPA Research Highlights 2014:

   'Metals in galaxies: Is what we see what we expect?'

Image credit: GROND Deep Field

6th December 2015

R. Yates (MPE) & D. A. Kann (TLS)