ASC’s After School Enrichment Class

The Aspen Science Center is teaching an after school enrichment class at Basalt Elementary!  Check out some of the things our students are learning.

The topic of our last class was light and energy.  We see colors because they are different energies of light.  The lowest energy light that we can see is red and the highest is purple (the order follows the rainbow, which makes sense because a rainbow is formed when different energies of light bend by slightly different amounts).  There is also a lot of light that we can’t see.  Infrared (“below red”) and lower energies of light are below what we can detect and ultraviolet (“above violet”) and above energies of light are too high for us to detect.

Students used a phosphorescent (glow-in-the-dark) board to compare light energies.  Phosphorescence happens because atoms store light energy and slowly release it.  When a high energy color like purple was shined on the board the glow lasted much longer than when it was a low energy color, like red.  With UV flashlights, the students saw that much more energy was hitting the board than our eyes could detect!  (UV flashlights include some purple light.  Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see if they are on or off.)

There were some pretty cool designs made by using different flashlights to give the board different amounts of energy, and by blocking pieces of the board from receiving light so those pieces couldn’t store energy (sticky shadows!).

This one is an example made by Maya (the Education Coordinator).

Students also made some fluorescent images.  Fluorescent materials absorb ultraviolet light and quickly spit the energy back out again, except in lower energy chunks that we can see.  That’s why the materials pop out under “black light”.  You can’t see the ultraviolet light shining on it (so it’s effectively black to your eye), but you can see the light that is being spit back out!  Highlighters are fluorescent, so students used them to compare how images looked under white light and under UV light.

Fluorescent image under white light.

Fluorescent image under UV light (with some purple light).

 

Image under white light.

The same image under UV light. This example illustrates how much of what we see is defined by the colors that our eyes process – and what they don’t process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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