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Scavenger Hunt
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SDSS Scavenger Hunt

Teacher Notes

The Scavenger Hunt is a good way for your students to get some practice using the Navigation tool. It also helps them get used to looking at astronomical images and picking out important details. Students will also become familiar with some of the most prominent objects that are observed by the SDSS. The scavenger hunt also serves as a basic introduction to filters and to the magnitude system astronomers use to measure brightness.

You may wish to set a time limit for students to find all the objects. It is all right if students don't find all of them; some are quite difficult to find. Question 20 can act as a tiebreaker. It is unlikely that two students will find an object with exactly the same large i-z value.

Make sure the students record ra and dec of all their finds. You may wish to have students exchange papers at the end to verify each student found all the objects they claim. Any disputes can be submitted to the class as a whole. Exchanging results to verify claims will introduce students to the concept of peer review.

Background Knowledge

Students should be familiar with what stars, galaxies and asteroids are. They do not need in-depth knowledge, but a basic understanding of the vocabulary should be enough. They also should know what color filters are and have a basic idea of why people might use them.


If your school has a theater, you can probably get some gels (colored filters that cover lights) to demonstrate what filters are. Show students that some colors appear brighter through some filters than others (for instance, look at a piece of red construction paper through a red filter and a blue filter and have them notice the difference).

Students do not need to understand the magnitude system in its entirety, but they should understand that lower numbers mean that the object is brighter.

Object Types

You may wish to spend a few minutes talking about the different types of objects students will be searching for. Extra examples of most of these objects can be found in SkyServer's Famous Places. Galaxy clusters and star clusters can be difficult to tell apart sometimes. Use the Navigation tool to check which types of objects students have found in their clusters.

Correlation to Project 2061 Standards for Science Education

The Project 2061 Benchmarks in Science Education is a report, originally published in 1993 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), that listed what students should know about scientific literacy. The report listed facts and concepts about science and the scientific process that all students should know at different grade levels.

The report is divided and subdivided into different content areas and subareas. Within each subarea, the report lists benchmarks for students completing grade 2, grade 5, grade 8, and grade 12. In these notes, benchmark content headings are listed as Roman numerals, subheadings as letters, grade levels by numbers, and specific points by numbers after the hyphen. For example, benchmark IA2-1 means the first benchmark for second grade students in the first content area, first subarea.

The SDSS Scavenger Hunt project meets the following Project 2061 benchmarks:

IB2-3, IC2-1, IC2-2, IIIA2-1, IIIA5-2, IIIA5-3, IVA2-1, IVA5-2, IVA5-5.



IB2-3. Describing things as accurately as possible is important in science because it enables people to compare their observations with those of others.

IC2-1. Everybody can do science and invent things and ideas.

IC2-2. Clear communication is an essential part of doing science. It enables scientists to inform others about their work, expose their ideas to criticism by other scientists, and stay informed about scientific discoveries around the world.

IIIA2-1. Tools are used to do things better or more easily and to do some things that could not otherwise be done at all. In technology, tools are used to observe, measure, and make things.

IIIA5-2. Technology enables scientists and others to observe things that are too small or too far away to be seen without them and to study the motion of objects that are moving very rapidly or are hardly moving at all.

IIIA5-3. Measuring instruments can be used to gather accurate information for making scientific comparisons of objects and events and for designing and constructing things that will work properly.

IVA2-1. There are more stars in the sky than anyone can easily count, but they are not scattered evenly, and they are not all the same in brightness or color.

IVA5-2. Telescopes magnify the appearance of some distant objects in the sky, including the moon and the planets. The number of stars that can be seen through telescopes is dramatically greater than can be seen by the unaided eye.

IVA5-5. Stars are like the sun, some being smaller and some larger, but so far away that they look like points of light.