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The Truth Is Out There: Finding Exoplanets

One of the hottest topics in physics today is the search for potentially habitable planets outside of our own solar system. These planets, known as exoplanets, stimulate the imagination in a way that any student can relate to, regardless of the amount of physics knowledge they possess. The search for these planets seems incredibly difficult, however the principles scientists use to find them are based in the content covered in a relatively standard introductory physics course.
This unit attempts to compile these techniques and frame them in a way that is accessible to a typical high school student taking an introductory course in mechanics and making students acutely aware of the fact that the physics they learn in school is not different than the physics used by research scientists. This unit is designed for 11th grade students currently enrolled in a general physics course meeting five days per week for 48 minutes at a time. This unit is not concerned with using mathematics beyond manipulating literal equations and some basic trigonometry that students should have already used in physics, leading to some flexibility in implementation and sequencing.

Klint Kanopka
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