Education Technology

Light Years Away

Activity Overview

Students develop models for a light year and compare numbers written in scientific notation and in standard notation.

Before the Activity

  • Understand that light travels at 186,000 miles per second and that the distance that light travels in a year is called a light year
  • See the attached PDF file for detailed instructions for this activity
  • Print pages 42 - 44 from the attached Student PDF file for the class
  • During the Activity

    Distribute the pages to the class.

    Follow the activity procedures:

  • Calculate how far light travels in a second, in a minute, in an hour, in a day, and in a year; and write the values in both, scientific and standard notations
  • Determine the exact value of a light year and note the calculator key stroke sequence that gives this value
  • Calculate the number of light years it would take Chris to travel a distance of 3000 miles each week for a period of 10 years
  • Compute the number of trips one would need to make around the equator (circumference 24,000 miles) to travel 186,000 miles
  • Find out how far a space-shuttle could travel in one year, if its speed is 17,500 miles per hour
  • Determine the number of years it would take to reach the star Alpha Centauri, which is around 4 light years away from Earth
  • After the Activity

    Students complete the Student Activity pages.

  • Review student results
  • As a class, discuss questions that appeared to be more challenging
  • Re-teach concepts as necessary