Expansion of space

Capturing the Cosmos

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This activity challenges students to understand and then model how space is expanding. It is suitable for Year 10 Science and Year 11 Physics students.


Hubble's Law

The expansion of the Universe is EVERYWHERE

What to do

  1. Watch the animations which demonstrate how space is expanding.
  2. Research the difference between the discoveries made by Edwin Hubble (with Milton Humans’ and Henrietta Leavitt’s assistance), Vesto Slipher and Brian Schmidt and his team and explain how these discoveries enhanced our understanding of the expanding universe.
  3. Explain the Big Bang theory and find out what evidence exists to support it.
  4. Now that you have a better understanding of the expanding universe, write a script for one of the animations so that it can be used as a teaching tool for Year 10 students or Year 11 students. What background will you include? Explain the significance of the discoveries in question 2 in relation to the Big Bang theory in your script.
  5. Use a digital device to record yourself reading the script explaining what is happening in one of the animations. Present your audio recording to your classmates for evaluation.
  6. In pairs (or groups), think about a unique practical demonstration that can explain or model the expanding universe to Year 10 or Year 11 students (in two or three dimensions).
    1. What equipment will you need? (Think about stretchy material you can use.)
    2. Brainstorm and write down any assumptions and/or limitations of your demonstration.
    3. Test the effectiveness of your demonstration as a teaching tool with Year 10 or Year 11 students. Make use of your answers to questions 2–5 when you demonstrate your model. How will you measure the effectiveness of your model and explanation of the expanding universe?
    4. What did you learn from designing this experiment?
    5. What did you learn about the Universe, yourself or group dynamics?
    6. Write a report including an introduction, aim, hypothesis, method, results, discussion and conclusion for your investigation.

Advice to teachers

This modelling activity is aimed at Year 10 and Year 11 students and is linked to the Victorian Curriculum Learning Areas of:

  • Science: Science as a Human Endeavour, Earth and Space Sciences
  • Capabilities: Critical and Creative Thinking, Personal and Social
  • VCE Year 11 Physics Area of Study: What is matter and how is it formed?

It is important to allow students to research the evidence supporting the expanding universe and come up with an original idea of how they can model or demonstrate this. The skills that will be used and challenged in this activity include: research, critical thinking, creative thinking, problem solving, communication, report writing and negotiation skills.