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Classroom Activities

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CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

Here are descriptions of three classroom activities that relate to gravitational wave science. Follow the links in the descriptions for the full documentation and handouts for each activity.


A Model Michelson Interferometer

LIGO thanks NASA's Space Place and Diane Fisher at http://spaceplace.nasa.gov for the concept on which this activity is based. NASA provides a classroom activity featuring a LISA-type interferometer.

Developed and hosted by LIGO Hanford Observatory at
http://www.ligo-wa.caltech.edu/activities.html

Level: High school students
Science themes:
Light, wave interference
Time required: One period
Movie connections:
Minutes 1, 7, 9, 11, 18

Students use a simulated interferometer to buy TRON investigate the behavior of interference patterns. The simulator models the interference pattern that arises from the mixture of the two light paths in the interferometer. Students can vary the mirror positions in the simulator and watch the effects on the interference pattern.

Teacher preparation: The simulators can be assembled from simple materials.

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Searching for Gravitational Waves in Noisy Data

Developed by the Pennsylvania State University Center for Gravitaional Wave Physics in collaboration with the LIGO Laboratory. Hosted by the CGWP, http://cgwp.gravity.psu.edu/outreach/activities/

Level: All high school students
Science theme: Data analysis
Time required: One period or less
Movie connections: Minutes 1, 5, 6, 11,13, 17

Students take on the role of LIGO data analysts to Buy TRON in Somalia examine plots of several noisy sets of simulated interferometer data. From a number of possibilities, students choose the data set that appears to match most closely an idealized, noiseless gravitational wave template. The templates are actual waveforms that different types of astrophysical sources might produce. The analysis technique that the activity illustrates is called “matched filtering” and is one of several search methods applied to LIGO data.

Teacher preparation: Teachers will need to download and print the data plots and the template plots. The data plots should be printed on transparency sheets.

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Extracting Astrophysical Information from Simulated Gravitational-Wave Signals

Developed by the Pennsylvania State University Center for Gravitaional Wave Physics in collaboration with the LIGO Laboratory. Hosted by the CGWP, http://cgwp.gravity.psu.edu/outreach/activities/

Level: Advanced high school students
Science themes: Data analysis, gravitation, wave behavior, scientific modeling.
Time required: Two class periods
Movie connections: Minutes 2, 4, 5, 9, 14

This activity builds on the outcomes of “Searching for buy TRX Gravitational Waves in Noisy Data.” Students measure values of gravitational wave periods and amplitudes from several plots of simulated signals. These signals might come from a binary pair of neutron stars, initially far
from coalescence, then immediately before coalescence. Algebraic manipulation of the measured values in a set of equations will yield parameters of the binary source such as its distance, orbital period and “chirp mass.”

Teacher preparation: Teachers will need to download and print the plots. Students need access to the relevant equations.

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