Strand V
Use Scientific Knowledge from the Earth and Space Sciences in Real-World Contexts


Science/Strand V
Content Standard 4
All students will compare and contrast our planet and Sun to other planets and star systems; describe and explain how objects in the solar system move; explain scientific theories as to the origin of the solar system; and explain how we learn about the universe. (Solar System, Galaxy, and Universe)


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 4
High School


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 4/High School
Benchmark 2
Describe the position and motion of our solar system in our galaxy and the overall scale, structure, and age of the universe.

Benchmark Clarification

Our solar system is located on one spiral arm of the slowly rotating Milky Way Galaxy, closer to the edge of the galaxy than the center. The universe consists of billions of galaxies. Like our solar system there is also structure and organization to our galaxy and the universe, but on a much larger scale with distances measured in light years.

Students will:

  • Explain how spectral observations (red shift) have led to the theory of the big bang, which explains the origin and the age of the universe

Key Concept / Real World Context / Instructional Example / Assessment Example / Resources


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 4/High School/Benchmark 2
Key Concept


Milky Way

Spiral structure

Speed of light

Light year

Travel miles

Big Bang

Red shift


  • telescopes
  • binoculars
  • spectroscopes


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 4/High School/Benchmark 2
Real World Context
Observations of other stars:

  • star clusters
  • nebulas
  • galaxies
  • potential planetary systems

Accounts of possible travel to other star systems


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 4/High School/Benchmark 2
Instructional Example

Benchmark Question: Where are we?

Focus Question: How do scientists determine how objects are moving in space?

The teacher will review the Doppler Effect with students and one or more demonstrations using sound or water. The teacher will review a light spectrum and remind students that in the visible spectrum, red light is a longer wavelength and lower frequency.

The teacher will provide students with a reference spectrum of an element, which is available in most physics or astronomy texts.

Students will compare the wavelength of characteristic lines from the reference spectrum with those same lines in the spectrum of a star. With a partner, they will calculate the amount and direction of the wavelength shift in the star.

Students will determine the direction of relative movement by noting the direction of wavelength shift (red = moving away, blue = moving toward).

Students will determine the relative speed of the object by comparing the size of the wavelength shift (larger shift = faster moving).

Constructing: (SCI.I.1.HS.1), (SCI.I.1.HS.3), (SCI.I.1.HS.4), (SCI.I.1.HS.5).

Reflecting: (SCI.II.1.HS.1), (SCI.II.1.HS.2).


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 4/High School/Benchmark 2
Assessment Example

A student in the future has just completed the Doppler shift lab in school and has rushed home to get on the family’s spaceship to go away for the weekend. Shortly after departure, the student realizes that he or she may have left the sodium reference light on when leaving the lab. Upon aiming the spectroscope back toward school, the discovery is made that the sodium lamp is indeed on.

Given the drawing of the sodium reference spectrum that the student has just completed in the lab, how would the sodium spectrum observed from the rapidly moving spaceship compare? Explain. (Hint: Include a diagram in your explanation.)

(Give students rubric before activity.)

Scoring Rubric






Accuracy of diagram

Proposes red shift.

Proposes red shift using a diagram.

Proposes red shift using a diagram and indicates that objects are moving away from each other.

Proposes red shift using a diagram, indicates that objects are moving away from each other, and explains the relationship between the amount of shift and the relative speed.


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 4/High School/Benchmark 2


Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive: features a new image daily and an accompanying description.

Pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope: features many pictures of stellar bodies outside the solar system.

Education Constellation Quiz.

Hamilton, Calvin. Views of the Solar System CD-ROM. NSTA, 1996.

Project SPICA: A Teacher Resource To Enhance Astronomy Education. Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 1995.