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For Teachers

FRAMING PATHWAYS TO ANSWERS: THE SCIENTIFIC PROCESS IN ACTION
STAYING COOL

Sensing the Invisible:
The Herschel Experiment

Grade Level: 5-8
Duration: 1 - 2 hours

Link to the complete lesson

Sir William Herschel
Portrait of Sir William Herschel, who discovered the existence of infrared radiation in 1800. (Picture credit: NASA/IPAC;)

Lesson Summary

In this lesson, students find out that there is radiation other than visible light arriving from the Sun. The students reproduce a version of William Herschel’s experiment of 1800 that discovered the existence of infrared radiation. The process of conducting the experiment and placing it in the historical context illustrates how scientific discoveries are often made via creative thinking, careful design of the experiment, and adaptation of the experiment to accommodate unexpected results. Students will discuss current uses of infrared radiation and learn that it is both very beneficial and a major concern for planetary explorations such as the MESSENGER mission to Mercury.

Essential Question

Are there forms of light other than visible light emitted by the Sun?

Concepts

MESSENGER Mission Connection

The MESSENGER mission to Mercury uses infrared light to study properties of the planet, and it is therefore beneficial to the mission. However, too much infrared radiation is detrimental to the spacecraft and its instruments, and engineers are faced with this problem when designing the MESSENGER spacecraft and mission.

Standards & Benchmarks

NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS

Standard B3: Transfer of energy

Related Standards

Standard G1: Science as a human endeavor

Standard G2: Nature of science

Standard G3: History of science

BENCHMARKS FOR SCIENTIFIC LITERACY (AAAS PROJECT 2061)

Benchmark 4F2

Benchmark 4F5

Benchmark 12C3

Related Benchmarks

Benchmark 1B1

Benchmark 1B4