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Transit Tracks

Classroom activity adaptable for grades 8-12, and general education astronomy courses.

Transit Tracks Lesson (PDF, 1.44 MB) classroom activity (revised April 2011) - includes teacher instructions, photocopy masters for Transit Light Curves, Option Math for Transit Tracks, Kepler’s 3rd Law graphs, cube root tables, an account of Jeremiah Horrocks' 1639 observation of the transit of Venus, and an answer key for the Transit Tracks Light Curves.

Transit Tracks PowerPoint Slides (Power Point, 30.55 MB) (revised June 2013). This presentation supports teaching this lesson. Each slide is annotated with background information. Contents by slide numbers:

  • Kepler Mission Goals-explanation, 1-7
  • What is a transit, 8-13
  • Graphing Light Curves—introduction, 14-17
  • Kepler's Third Law presented graphically: 18-23 (also optional: 56-58)
  • Transit Tracks Light Curves: 24-33
  • Student worksheets and results table: 34-36
  • Kepler's planets: 37-40
  • Kepler's planet candidates: 41-50
  • Habitable zone planet discoveries: 51-54
  • Planet candidate family portrait: 55
  • Johannes Kepler: 56
  • Optional: Kepler's Three Laws illustrated: 57-59
  • Optional: Derivation of planet-size formula: 60

Make a Lego Orrery.

This is a trial version of an activity intended to be part of the Full Option Science System (FOSS) Planetary Science Course. Transit Tracks is © 2008 by the Regents of the University of California and may be duplicated for non-profit education purposes.

A sample Transit Light Curve from the lesson:
Light Curves--Page 5 from Transit Tracks

Transit Tracks activity supports these elements of
Next Generation Science Standards:

NGSS Middle School

ESS1: Earth’s Place in the Universe

MS-ESS1-2. Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system.
[Clarification Statement: Emphasis for the model is on gravity as the force that holds together the solar system and Milky Way galaxy and controls orbital motions within them. Examples of models can be physical (such as the analogy of distance along a football field or computer visualizations of elliptical orbits) or conceptual (such as mathematical proportions relative to the size of familiar objects such as their school or state).] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include Kepler’s Laws of orbital motion or the apparent retrograde motion of the planets as viewed from Earth.]

Disciplinary Core Ideas

ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System

The solar system consists of the sun and a collection of objects, including planets, their moons, and asteroids that are held in orbit around the sun by its gravitational pull on them.

NGSS High School

HS. Space Systems

HS-ESS1-4. Use mathematical or computational representations to predict the motion of orbiting objects in the solar system.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System (Kepler’s laws)