A blog about teaching and learning in a maths classroom.

Activity - Atlantis and Hubble in front of the Sun

Tuesday, 22 April 2014 | 0 Comments

If we can determine the altitude of a plane in front of the moon, why not try the altitude of the Space Shuttle Atlantis in front of the Sun?

With thanks to Thierry Legault for giving me permission to include his incredible image in this activity.

I first saw this image in 2009, I promptly filed it in a Daily Interest folder where I am collecting interesting stuff as a source of curiosity in my classroom. One Year 8 student on seeing this image said "isn't the space shuttle getting really hot being so close to the sun?", which further prompted my interest in raising the curiosity level in my classroom, even when the item of interest isn't explicitly related to the current topic.

Like the plane in front of the moon activity, the following files are just an outline of a solution to finding the altitufe of the shuttle using similar triangles. Whilst the magnitude of the numbers are large, I think my Year 10 class will give the problem a go. I was amazed that using measurements from PowerPoint, I came up with an altitude of 609 km. The stated altitude is 600 km.

Preview of activity

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