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Science Projects for Kids: The Incredible Universe

Star Brightness Detector

Some stars appear to be brighter than others, but how bright are they? This simple star brightness detector will give you a way to measure and categorize the brightness of stars. Overlapping cellophane strips are the key to this science project for kids: the incredible universe.

Detect star brightness with cellophane strips.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Use cellophane strips to detect star brightness.

What You'll Need:

  • Clear night sky
  • Scissors
  • Cardboard
  • Ruler
  • Colored cellophane
  • Tape

Step 1: Cut four 1-3/4 inch rectangles next to each other on a piece of cardboard.

Step 2: Tape one sheet of cellophane over all four rectangles.

Step 3: Tape an overlapping sheet of cellophane over the last three rectangles.

Step 4: Tape more cellophane over the last two rectangles, and finally a last overlapping sheet of cellophane on the last rectangle only.

Step 5: View the night sky with your brightness detector. Notice you can see more stars when you look through fewer cellophane sheets. Only the light from the brightest stars is able to penetrate all four sheets.

Step 6: Try to find a star that you can see with one sheet but not with two sheets. Call this a one star.

Step 7: Find a star you can see with two sheets but not three. Call this a two star.

Step 8: Find a star you can see with three sheets but not four, and call this a three star.

Step 9: Call any star you can see through all four sheets is a four star.

Step 10: Write down the number of each type of star that you see. Which type can you find most often? A star's brightness on Earth depends upon the amount of light the star is putting out and how far it is from Earth.

Keep reading on the next page to find out how you can get creative with your own paint speck constellations.

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