MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Galaxies and Dark Matter

Peter Fisher
Professor of Physics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139 USA

Lesson vetted and approved by CPALMS



This video lesson has the goal of introducing students to galaxies as large collections of gravitationally bound stars. It explores the amount of matter needed for a star to remain bound and then brings in the idea of Dark Matter, a new kind of matter that does not interact with light. It is best if students have had some high school level mechanics, ideally Newton's laws, orbital motion and centripetal force. The teacher guide segment has a derivation of centripetal acceleration. This lesson should be mostly accessible to students with no physics background. The video portion of this lesson runs about 30 minutes, and the questions and demonstrations will give a total activity time of about an hour if the materials are all at hand and the students work quickly. However, 1 1/2 hours is a more comfortable amount of time. There are several demonstrations that can be carried out using string, ten or so balls of a few inches in diameter, a stopwatch or clock with a sweep second hand and some tape. The demonstrations are best done outside, but can also be carried out in a gymnasium or other large room. If the materials or space are not available, there are videos of the demonstrations in the module and these may be used.

Peter Fisher is a professor of Physics at MIT and works on searching for dark matter. He is also interested in wireless energy transmission and energy related problems.

This site, Imagine the Universe, is sponsored by the NASA Goddard Space flight center and is intended for students age 14 and up, and for anyone interested in learning about our universe.

This site, sponsored by the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, provides lesson resources for teaching the topic of dark matter, including a video link, curriculum links, student activities and a downloadable teacher guide.

This YouTube site presents a NOVAscienceNOW video entitled “The Dark Matter Mystery.”

This YouTube site presents a video entitled “Dark Matter 3D Map.”

This site provides a comprehensive discussion of Dark Matter.

This is an extensive Wikipedia site on Dark Matter.

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This Lesson is in the following clusters: Astronomy