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So You Want to Teach about Comets?

Last week, humanity took a huge leap forward in solar system exploration. If you’re a science teacher wanting to talk about comet science in your class, there are some great resources out there for doing that.

First of all, if you can get your (gloved) hands on some dry ice, do it. I’ve posted the “make a comet” activity here before, so I recommend you wow your students with that. Since I posted that, I actually met the guy who purportedly first came up with this activity back when Halley’s Comet last graced our skies. Dennis Schatz of the Pacific Science Center messed around with various recipes until he got it just right with his son in 1985.

My colleague, Georgia Bracey, found another lovely comet demonstration on the NASA Wavelength site, a searchable database of all of NASA’s educational material. This one is especially good with younger kids or with space to run around with your creation afterwards. It’s called “Comet on a Stick” and uses simple craft materials to make a very lovely comet with a tail that your students can bring home.

I was particularly partial to the Rosetta and Philae paper model. The outreach people at ESA did a fantastic job tweeting from the orbiter and lander in a first-person way, so it makes sense to come up with adorable graphics to go along with them. I have a cute little paper Rosetta and Philae on my desk right now. Cardstock is best for printing this one out!

Georgia and I show cased these models and talked about the educational benefits of models on Learning Space on the day of the landing, in between frantic tweeting and livestreamed press conferences. Check out the episode if you’d like here:

Update (11/19): The audio-only version of our show is up on 365 Days of Astronomy!

More educational content straight from the Rosetta mission can be found at

I’ll be posting more about the science of Rosetta and Philae on Skepchick within a few days!

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Nicole is a professor, astronomer, educator, geek, dog mom, occasional fitness nerd, and maker of tiny comets. She is also very loud under the right circumstances. Like what you read? Buy me a coffee:

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