Program Type: Demonstration (best Audience Type: Grade 6–12 for museum educators and teachers with specialized equipment)

Description: Students use and to understand how travels through reflecting and refracting .

Topics: , light, , , mirrors.

Process Skills : Critical thinking, observing, design.


For Next Generation Science Standards alignment, see end of outline.

• Scientists use telescopes to observe distant objects such as . • Engineers design telescopes to collect and focus light. • There are two primary kinds of telescopes: reflecting and refracting.


Advance Prep Set Up Activity Clean Up

15 minutes 10 minutes 15 minutes 10 minutes


• Area with minimal sources of outside light • Access to at least one power outlet • Access to a table

Laser Telescope 1 Lenses on the Sky OMSI 2017


Segment Format Time Introduction Large group discussion 3 min Laser Telescope Instructor-led activity 10 min Wrap-Up Large group discussion 10 min


Permanent Supplies Amount Notes Laser box with five lasers 1 Arbor Scientific sells a “Laser Ray Box and Lenses” including small lenses Print out of the image 1 Masking tape 1 Small concave lens* (8 cm long, 2.5 1 cm wide, 2 cm tall) Small convex lens* (8 cm long, 2.5 1 cm wide, 2 cm tall) Large convex lens* (14.5 cm long, 4 1 cm wide, 2.5 cm tall) Large curved standing rectangular 1 * (15 cm long, 5 cm tall) Small, flat standing rectangular 1 mirror* (6.5 cm tall, 2 cm wide) template 1 At the end of the document template 1 At the end of the document

*The sizes included are for the lenses and mirrors that we use at OMSI (see photo below). The exact sizes of the lenses and mirrors are not important, but their relative sizes and focal lengths are. You may have to experiment with the lenses and mirrors available to you to ensure that you can create the proper effects illustrated in the activity description.

Photo from left to right: large mirror, large convex mirror, small mirror, small concave lens, and small convex lens.

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• Print the Reflecting Telescope template and Refracting Telescope template on 11 × 17” pieces of paper (if possible). • Familiarize yourself with the lenses and mirrors. Be comfortable assembling the lenses and mirrors to make sure you can make both a reflecting and refracting telescope design. • Print out the planet on cardstock and cut off the extra paper around the black line.


• Set up the table in an area that is as dark as possible. • Place the Refracting Telescope template on the table. • Plug in the laser box and turn it on. Set the lasers to five rays. • Position the laser box so the light appears to come from the stars printed on the template. The rays should be visible all the way to the observer’s eye printed on the template. • Tape the planet printout onto the top of the laser box. This helps to reduce the risk of people looking directly into the lasers. It also keeps little hands from touching the laser box button and switch. • Take out the converging (convex) lenses, both big and small, and the diverging (concave) lens. Keep all other lenses out of sight to avoid potential distraction. • Keep the Reflecting Telescope template and mirrors close at hand.


Let students speculate before offering answers to any questions. The answers given are provided primarily for the instructor’s benefit.

Suggested script is shaded. Important points or questions are in bold. Possible answers are shown in italics.

Would you like to build a telescope? Yes!

Why do we make telescopes? To look at the sky.

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Telescopes make it possible to study distant objects such as planets, stars, and galaxies. They’re what help us understand the universe. They’ve been used for hundreds of years, and engineers are always looking to design bigger and better telescopes to help us study space.

Would you like to explore how a telescope works and be a telescope engineer with me?

SAFETY PRECAUTION: Do not look directly into the lasers. Lasers can damage eyes. Set up the demonstration so that the lasers are facing away from people’s eyes, preferably towards a wall to limit opportunities to unintentionally look into the lasers.

INSTRUCTOR-LED Laser Telescope ACTIVITY 10 minutes

We’ll start by investigating a type of telescope that’s been around for hundreds of years. It’s made of lenses.

Where else have you seen lenses? . .

Yes, just like your glasses or the inside of a .

Scientists such as used this type of telescope—called a “refracting telescope”—to be the first people to observe our own with a telescope.

[Pick up the concave and convex lenses and show them to the visitor or student.]

What happens to the light when it passes through these lenses? Here, you can experiment.

Guide visitors/students as they hold different lenses in front of the laser’s rays.

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With the convex lens: This one is called a convex lens. Look, it focuses light by bringing it together at one point. Then, the light spreads out again.

With the concave lens: What does the concave lens do? It’s con-cave because it goes in like a cave.

Yes, it spreads the light out.

Now, let’s imagine this laser light is the light from the distant planet . Have you ever seen Jupiter with your naked eyes? Yes. No.

You probably have, but it just looks like a dot in the sky like a star. That’s because only a little bit of the light is going in our eyes, similar to how only one or two beams of laser light are going into this person’s eye. [Point to the eye on the template.]

To be able to see the detail on the planet, we need to be able to collect and focus more of the light into our eye. That’s what the telescope does.

See if you can use two of these lenses to collect and focus more of Jupiter’s light (the lasers) into our observer’s eye.

Remember that light rays must be parallel to one another in order for us to see anything with our eyeballs. Light at an angle will looked warped like a fun-house mirror!

Let visitors/students try different combinations. Make sure that they remember that the lasers need to be parallel when they hit the eye. If they seem stuck, give them hints about moving the lenses closer and farther apart.

There are two ways for visitors to successfully complete this challenge: 1. Use the large convex lens to collect the light, then use the small convex lens to straighten the light out again. For this to work, the small lens must be past the focal point of the large lens.

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When they figure out this option: Nice job! This is how Galileo’s telescope worked. Note one thing, though. [Cover up the laser closest to you.] What happens to the light when it goes through the telescope? It gets turned upside down.

Right, the image is reversed. Now, try with the small concave lens to see if you can design a refracting telescope that keeps the image right side up.

2. Use the large convex lens to collect the light, then use the small concave lens to straighten the light out again. For this to work, the small lens must be before the focal point of the large lens.

When they figure out this option: Wow, you just designed the second type of telescope made to look at the sky.

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Even though reflecting telescopes allowed people to see stars and planets in more detail than before, they have their challenges. Why do you think the problems with this telescope design might be?

It’s hard to make and mount really big lenses (they’re heavy!).

Would you like to now try assembling a different type of telescope? This style is more modern, and it uses mirrors rather than lenses. The world’s largest telescopes, like those on mountaintops and in space, are often this style—they are called “reflecting telescopes.”

Place the Reflecting Telescope template on the table with the two mirrors and two small lenses. Position the laser box so the light appears to come from the stars printed on the template.

Notice that with this type of telescope we look into the telescope from the side.

Now, can you use mirrors to send Jupiter’s light (the laser beams) into the observer’s eye? Remember that light rays must be parallel to one another in order for us to see anything with our eyeballs!

To solve this challenge, visitors need to arrange the large mirror, small mirror, and small convex lens like this:

Visitors often struggle with how to arrange the mirrors to get the light into the person’s eye. If needed, give them

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hints by encouraging them to try different positions and placements for the small mirror.

Also, remind them how they made the light become parallel again in the refracting telescope. They need to use a lens at the to straighten out the lasers.

Nice! You did it. And the great thing about your reflecting telescope is that you can make it as big as possible to collect more light. Some giant telescope mirrors are over 10 meters across! That’s wider than a tennis court!

WRAP-UP 2 minutes

Ask for student . There is no correct answer. Let students guide the discussion and present their hypotheses before discussing explanations.

Thank you for being a telescope engineer with me today! Maybe you’ll work for NASA someday as an engineer designing telescopes. Or, an astrophysicist, a scientist using one of these huge telescopes to understand the universe.

If you could design any kind of telescope, what would it be? What would you look at?


• Turn off the lasers, return the lenses to their kit, and put away the mirrors. Recycle or keep the Reflecting Telescope template and Refracting Telescope template.

OPTIONAL EXTENSIONS • There are different lenses in the kit (triangular, trapezoidal, etc.). Bring them out and let visitors experiment by placing them in front of the laser box.

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• Create a game: mark a target on the template and challenge the visitors/students to direct all the light successfully through that target.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION Divide: Refracting telescopes Refracting telescopes were used by scientists hundreds of years ago to make some of the first detailed observations of the sky. For instance, they revealed craters on the Moon and the largest of Jupiter. The lenses of refracting telescopes must be designed very accurately to bend light in just the right way. Even today, some smaller telescopes in use are refracting telescopes.

Reflecting telescopes Most of the largest telescopes in use today—those with mirrors measuring several meters in diameter—are reflecting telescopes, which means that they use mirrors rather than lenses. Mirrors are advantageous in that they can be structurally supported along their entire backside (since light doesn’t travel through them), which is important when dealing with enormous mirrors that weigh several tons each! Many large reflecting telescopes can be found on the summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island, a site renowned for its clear, dark skies.


Detailed explanation of the differences between refracting and reflecting telescopes https://www.britannica.com/science/optical-telescope#ref481091


Concave lens A lens that spreads incident light away from the original path Convex lens A lens that brings together incident light into a focal point Focal point The point at which converging rays arrive or from where diverging rays leave Reflecting A telescope that uses mirrors to produce a smaller, telescope more detailed image of what is being observed Refracting A telescope that uses lenses to produce a smaller, telescope more detailed image of what is being observed

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Practices Crosscutting Concepts 1. Asking questions and defining problems 1. Patterns 2. Developing and using models 2. Cause and effect 3. Planning and carrying out investigations 3. Scale, proportion, and quantity 4. Analyzing and interpreting data 4. Systems and system models 6. Constructing explanations and designing solutions


Disciplinary Core Idea K 1 2 3 4 5 MS HS Physical Science PS1 and Its Interaction n/a n/a n/a n/a PS2 Motion and Stability: Forces and n/a n/a n/a Interactions PS3 Energy n/a n/a n/a PS4 Waves and Their Applications in n/a n/a n/a n/a for Information Transfer Life Science LS1 From molecules to organisms: n/a Structures and processes LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and n/a n/a n/a Dynamics LS3 Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of n/a n/a n/a n/a Traits LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity n/a n/a n/a n/a & Space Science ESS1 Earth's Place in the Universe n/a n/a ESS2 Earth's Systems n/a ESS3 Earth and Human Activity n/a n/a , , and Applications of Science ETS1 Engineering Design

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Thank you to NASA for making the Lenses on the Sky project possible!

The material contained in this activity is based upon work supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under grant award Number NNX15AB03G. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NASA.

Image credit on diagram for eye: John Bonadies

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Reflecting Telescope/Telescopio Reflector Refracting Telescope/Telescopio Refractor Jupiter/Júpiter

This image of Jupiter was taken on 21 April 2014 using the Hubble .

Imagen de Júpiter tomada el 21 de abril 2014 por el telescopio espacial Hubble.

Photo credit/Fotografía: NASA.