Multi-wavelength Astronomy

Contact Information:

  • Katelyn McCarthy. Email:


The radiation and energy of the Universe comes in all shapes, colors, and temperatures. This lesson plans dives deep into the Electromagnetic Spectrum that Astronomers and Astrophysicists use to understand both our local Galaxy and the vastness beyond. Students will not only learn about the different parts of the Electromagnetic Spectrum, but also how it is used to learn more about the Cosmos.

Lesson Content Overview:

  • Engage (10 min): Students watch a short video that highlights the Milky Way Galaxy in optical (visible) light. Students observe how the presence of light pollution can affect the view, and begin to consider what the night sky may look like in other wavelengths.
  • Explore (30 min): Students individually explore a branch of multiwavelength astronomy, looking at how astronomers observe the sky and objects that emit that wavelength (radio, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, x-ray, gamma-ray). Students discuss their research findings with classmates who were also looking at that particular wavelength. These groups are now “experts” in their wavelength.
  • Explain (30 min): Students form new groups, so that every person in the group researched a different wavelength. Students take turns sharing their findings with their group mates. Students then have a whole-class discussion on multiwavelength astronomy and make connections back to their jigsaw groups.
  • Extend (25 min): Students have a whole-class discussion about the electromagnetic spectrum. Students use a logarithmic scale of electromagnetic radiation (photon) energies and some “everyday” comparisons to help facilitate and scaffold the discussion. Students may extend the discussion in several ways to focus on scientific notation, scientific prefixes, the electromagnetic spectrum (frequency/wavelength), and energy comparisons/conversions, depending on the goals of the teacher.
  • Evaluate (15 min): Students apply what they have learned about multiwavelength astronomy by reading about the Crab Nebula in different wavelengths. Students consider why gamma-rays are left off of the reading, and watch a short video that supplies some evidence. Students work individually or collaboratively to complete a student guide to reflect on student learning.

Supporting Material:

Multi-wavelength Astronomy – Lesson Plan

Resource – Energy in the EM Spectrum

Resource – Jigsaw Activity

Resource – Jigsaw Table

Resource – Observing the Universe

Resource – Observing the Universe KEY

About the Team:

Petra Huentemeyer, PhD (, Professor, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI


Henrike Fleischhack, PhD (, Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), Germany


Xiaojie Wang, PhD (, Post-Doctorate, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI


Katelyn McCarthy (, Teacher, Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center, Kalamazoo, MI


Matt Laird (, Instructor, Gogebic Community College, Houghton, MI


Heather Murphy (, Teacher, Hancock High School, Hancock, MI


Tamala Sebring (, Teacher, Pittsfield High School, Pittsfield, MA

Interested in Joining?

The call for applications to participate in this RET will be posted in the fall.


Check back here or contact Petra Huentemeyer for more information.