Physics and Astronomy

Astronomy Triathlon
Objective This event will be composed of three events covering broad topics in astronomy including constellations and the nights sky, planetary systems, and cosmology.
Participants Teams of up to six.

Students will be provided with a protractor kit, and graph paper. Your teams must supply: one nonprogrammable calculator; each student must bring a pen or pencil to write with.


Constellations and the Night Sky.
Students will be required to identify major constellations, stars, and planets visible from London Ontario over the course of the year. Students should also be able to recognize locations within the Solar System from the views of their skies. The sky views for each question will be projected onto a screen using the free planetarium program "Stellarium" (www.stellarium.org).

Planetary Systems.
Students will be provided with information on a known extrasolar planetary system (listed in the exoplanet catalogue exoplanets.org/table) and will have to answer questions based on the data. Numbers (such as radii and masses) will be given in units of our own Solar System. Samples of possible questions: "Which planets are likely to be gas giants?" and "Which planets are likely to have liquid water?"

Students will be investigating the presence of Dark Matter as inferred from the radial velocity curve of the Milky Way Galaxy using Kepler's laws. Orbital periods and distances (with respect to the Galactic centre) of a number of stars will be provided. The students will then be asked to calculate the corresponding orbital velocities and then plot the Galaxy's rotation curve and explain what their observation suggests.

Communication Devices. Students may not use any device such as a smartphone or tablet to communicate with any outside source during this event.


Each event will be worth 10 points, with a total maximum score possibility of 30. To achieve full marks, each question must be answered correctly and with a good explanation to get full points. The winner will be the team with the best score on a 30 point scale. In the event of a tie, the overall quality of the written responses to questions will be judged.

Source Department of Physics & Astronomy, Western University.

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