Take a Journey of Discovery with RXTE - Classroom Activity

By Lisa Williamson, Maggie Masetti & Jim Lochner

In this unit (5 days long using a 90-minute block schedule), students, who take on the role of light curve experts at a fictitious Drew Freeman Research Facility, receive an important bulletin from NASA. A mysterious X-ray source near the Galactic Center has been detected by the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) satellite. The students collect, graph, and analyze data gathered by one of this satellite's scientific instruments, the All-Sky Monitor (ASM), to determine whether or not this source can be accurately identified as a black hole or a neutron star.

Students complete a series of missions where they must perform tasks such as constructing a model of RXTE, creating a light curve from data collected by the ASM, interpreting, analyzing, and drawing conclusions from existing light curves, and using prior and acquired knowledge to identify the source of the X-ray emission. The culmination of the missions is a pretend space journey to the mystery source.

Students in classrooms with computer access should use the Student Adventure to guide them through the 5 missions. The Teacher Guide is a plain text, easily printable document that includes all the relevant information a teacher would need for this unit, including standards.

Though the 5 different missions were created to go together, as a unit, we have designed them so that they can each stand alone. Taken separately, each mission has a unique objective that will teach students something about how science and/or NASA works. However, when put together, the overall unit will give students a much broader perspective.


Student Adventure     Teacher Guide

Jim and Maggie visit Lisa's classroom - Lisa Williamson was our Summer 1999 Teacher Intern - we went to the middle school where she teaches to observe a part of our recently developed "Journey of Discovery with RXTE" lesson in action.