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Saturday Morning Astrophysics

Students modeled our solar system, link to the YouTube video.
Students modeled our solar system with PlayDOH planets and distances between them to the same scale. Watch the video tracing their way back to the sun.

Saturday Morning Astrophysics at Purdue (SMAP) is a program offered monthly for middle and high school students in grades 7-12. We dive into current topics in astro research, historical background and discovery, and fundamental principles related to physics and astronomy, at grade appropriate levels.

  • Dates:   Selected Saturdays, announced monthly
  • Times:  11:00AM Eastern
  • Format: Live on Zoom / YouTube Live

SMAP introduces grade 7-12 students to learning experiences not typically part of their regular classroom instruction. SMAP will provide students an appreciation of the vast distances and ages of objects across space and time, the tools and methods employed for discovery, and historical perspectives of the women and men behind the science.

SMAP students will do experiments and activities, exploring phenomena across the cosmos; speeds that astound, scales you would never imagine, and fundamental principles that guide and support discovery – light and waves, space and time, energies and forces, addressing the basic questions, how do we know and what does it mean?

Professor Danny Milisavljevic teaching as Professor Kepler, link to YouTube video.

We even have our own "Professor Kepler" revealing his discoveries in planetary motion.

Physics and Astronomy faculty and research scientists introduce each SMAP session with the background and information relevant to the topic in question – what is significant, what science is involved, what questions exist, what methods do we need to use in order to discover, and what do our findings tell us?

SMAP is offered on selected Saturdays, monthly during the academic school year. Registered students and parents will be notified by email in advance of each SMAP session, with the topic, and any materials that may be required or need to be printed for the lesson.

Students may register for SMAP using the link below, any time throughout the academic year. Students need only to register once, and are free to pick and choose the session(s) in which they would like to participate. 

Students learning about space time   Students assembling telescopes

These SMAP students are modeling the distortion of spacetime (left) and assembling refractor telescopes (right).

What's In Store for SMAP 2022-2023?

Our Solar System Front to Back:

If the sun were the size of a balloon, how big and how far away would Earth be? On the same scale how far would we be from our furthest planet Neptune? Learn about our planets and create your own scale model solar system.

Our Expanding Universe:

What is redshift and what does it tell us about our expanding universe? How fast is it expanding? Will the expansion stop? We can learn a lot from light!

Black Holes:

What causes black holes and what do they do? Are they actually gigantic vacuums that suck in everything within reach? If you fell into a black hole is there really no escape? Delve with us into this fascinating phenomenon.

Colonizing Mars:

Is the movie The Martian even plausible? What are the challenges of such a harsh environment and what unanswered question do we still have? The psychology of such an enterprise may surprise you.

Life Cycles of Stars:

In short, stellar dynamics.  What happens to stars as they age? How do they form? Are some of the first stars ever formed still around? Collect some real data and compare the lives of stars, their color, how big they are, and how long they last.

Searching for Exoplanets:

Planets can be 100 times smaller in diameter than the stars they orbit. How do we know they are even there? Could they possibly support life? Learn how astronomers are answering these questions.

Unique Telescopes:

Let’s celebrate the newest addition to the family of bandwidth-specific telescopes – The James Web (JWST). With the ability to look back to the very beginnings of our universe, what will we learn? What new questions will arise?

The Genius in Creativity:

Men and women from the ancients to modern day are known for their unique approach to posing and answering questions. Where do they get their ideas? How did they know what to do? Let’s look back and peek into their genius.

Astronomy and Culture:

Even across vastly different cultures, East from West, humans have looked to the night skies in search of answers to their existence.  Compare these patterns and discover the lives and beliefs of humans across time.

These are some SMAP sessions in consideration for 2022-2023. Register for SMAP and join us on our journey learning about the cosmos.

Register for SMAP


Stay up to date with the latest SMAP Zoom recordings, new lessons and experiments you can do at home on our YouTube channel.

SMAP YouTube Channel


For our fellow educators

Educators and home school parents – would you like to be in the SMAP loop? Teachers for SMAP is for you. We’ll notify you of upcoming SMAP activities, share our lessons and materials for use in your own classroom, and notify you of professional development opportunities.

Teachers for SMAP


For any additional information, please contact Physics and Astronomy Outreach Coordinator Dr. David Sederberg.

Highlights from past SMAP programs    Selected lessons and activities

Last Updated: Sep 2, 2022 11:48 AM

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