EDUCATION: See the Heat

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Science  16 Apr 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5669, pp. 367
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5669.367a

Training an infrared-sensitive camera on the inky Elephant's Trunk Nebula reveals a stellar nursery aglitter with young stars. At Cool Cosmos, a primer hosted by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, secondary school students and the public can learn the basics of infrared astronomy, which has allowed researchers to view the universe in a new light. Backgrounders get visitors up to speed on infrared radiation, which falls between visible light and microwaves on the electromagnetic spectrum, and explain how infrared measurements have helped astronomers spot faint stars and detect swirls of dust in what seemed to be empty space.

The site also provides a timeline of discoveries and classroom activities. For example, students can duplicate the pioneering experiment of the English composer and astronomer William Herschel, who in 1800 used a prism to split sunlight and infer the existence of infrared radiation. Fun galleries display impressive views of the night sky, along with infrared photos of animals, people, and everyday objects.

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