The Big Bang, Galaxies, Stars, and the Structure of the Universe
This unit contains resources about the origin. scale, and structure of the Universe and an introduction to galaxies.

Workshop Presentations

The lectures from these workshops are available below. The PowerPoint file from these workshops is available below to download and edit for use in your own classroom. In addition, the PowerPoint is available as a PDF for printing. The Powerpoint is also available for viewing as a web document (html). Lastly, online lectures with PowerPoint slides and voice-over are available in three parts below.

PowerPoint Click to download the MS Powerpoint file (26 Mbytes).

PDF. Click to view or download the presentation in PDF.(3 Mbytes)

HTML. Click to view the presentation in your browser. (html format)

Online lecture Pt. 1 Click here to view a streaming lecture covering the Big Bang and the evolution of the universe. (~30 minutes)

Online lecture Pt. 2 Click here to view a streaming lecture discussing galaxies. (~15 minutes)

Online lecture Pt. 3 Click here to view a streaming lecture discussing constellations and how we determine the distances to stars and galaxies. (~15 minutes)

Classroom Activities

Model the Night Sky This two-part activity models the pattern of stars in the zodiacal constellations that are observed as the Earth orbits the Sun. The large constellation diagrams for the second part of the activity can be downloaded for printing here. From the University of Texas McDonald Observatory.

It's in the Stars. PDF Download In this activity, students examine a diorama depicting stars in the sky. The activity helps students to understand that the pattern of stars that form constellations are random and depend on where they are viewed from. Students are asked to record the pattern of stars and make there own constellation. Click here for teacher instructions. Click here for examples of constellations.

Online Video and Media Resources

Evidence for the Big Bang Theory (PBS NOVA) This short video explores the cosmic microwave background (CMB) that is strong evidence for the Big Bang. In this video segment adapted from NOVA, learn how two researchers changed the future of cosmology when they stumbled upon radiation believed to be left over from the birth of the universe.

Gravity and the Expanding Universe (PBS NOVA) This short video discusses that the rate of expansion of the Universe is accelerating. To explain this acceleration, scientists have come to believe that there may be a repulsive force caused by "dark energy."

How Big Is Our Universe? (Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) This interactive resource illustrates the immense scale of the universe and demonstrates some techniques astronomers use to measure distance.

Berkeley Lab Physicist Shares Nobel (KQED Quest) Click here for a version with better closed captions. This short video features Nobel prize winner, Saul Perlmutter, and discusses how dark energy is causing our Universe to expand.

Dark Matter This short animated video discusses the evidence for dark matter. Minute Physics.

Where was the Big Bang. This short animated video discusses why the Earth appears to be the center of the Universe (but really isn't).

Picture of the Big Bang. This short animated video discusses the cosmic background radiation.

How Big is the Universe? This short animated video discusses the difference between the observable universe and the entire universe. Minute Physics.

Misconceptions about the Universe This short video discusses the size of the Universe and the difficult concept about how the Universe is expanding at a rated greater than the speed of light. Veritasium.


Useful Websites

NASA WMAP This is the main mission page for the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe that measured the cosmic microwave background radiation from the Big Bang. This site contains imagery and educational resources.

NASA (main website) This is the main entry point for NASA's extensive web resources. You can enter different areas such as NASA mission websites including data and news, educational resources and image/multimedia collections.

NASA Missions This page lists past, current and future NASA missions and is a great starting point for investigating the wide variety of NASA missions and investigations.

NASA Education Resources Database This NASA website is a searchable database on NASA-developed educational resources, activities, lesson plans, and webquests.

NASA Science This is the website of the NASA Science Mission Directorate. It includes mission information, data and resources for current missions in the following areas: Earth, Heliophysics, Planets and Astrophysics.


NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas

Grade 1
ESS1.A: The Universe and its Stars Patterns of the motion of the sun, moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, and predicted.

Grade 5
ESS1.A: The Universe and its Stars The sun is a star that appears larger and brighter than other stars because it is closer. Stars range greatly in their distance from Earth.

Middle School
ESS1.A: Patterns of the apparent motion of the sun, the moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, predicted, and explained with models. Earth and its solar system are part of the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of many galaxies in the universe.

High School
ESS1.A: The Universe and Its Stars The star called the sun is changing and will burn out over a lifespan of approximately 10 billion years. The study of stars' light spectra and brightness is used to identify compositional elements of stars, their movements, and their distances from Earth. The Big Bang theory is supported by observations of distant galaxies receding from our own, of the measured composition of stars and non-stellar gases, and of the maps of spectra of the primordial radiation (cosmic microwave background) that still fills the universe. Other than the hydrogen and helium formed at the time of the Big Bang, nuclear fusion within stars produces all atomic nuclei lighter than and including iron, and the process releases electromagnetic energy. Heavier elements are produced when certain massive stars achieve a supernova stage and explode.

Common Scientific Misconceptions

The Universe is static, not expanding.

The Universe contains only the planets in our solar system.

Astrology is able to predict the future.


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