Sunday, April 28, 2024

Astronomy Crossword Puzzles [OpenStax-aligned]

Who needs astronomy crossword puzzles? I have no idea! But if you do, I have some you might like. When I make crossword puzzles, I include appropriate chapter key terms; everyone does. But where most creators stop there, I take things further. I fill those awkward empty spaces (large enough to grow farm crops). I bring in non-key terms from the chapter, terms from previous chapters, science, math, general knowledge, pop culture, and randomness. That's among The Lessons of Phyz Advantages.

The good people at OpenStax have published Astronomy 2e on their site. Chapters 2-30 have key terms. So I am making crossword puzzles for those chapters. This post will grow one puzzle at a time until all puzzles are finished. Some chapters have very few key terms; those chapters are combined into a single puzzle.

My favorite use case is to distribute the next chapter's crossword puzzle on unit test day. That is, give out the Chapter 2 puzzle on Chapter 1 test day, and so on. It's nice for keeping the room quiet while students finish the test at different times from one another. You might naturally worry that students wouldn't have a chance with a puzzle filled with as-yet uncovered vocabulary. And you'd be right, except that I filled my puzzle space gaps with words they already know from previous chapters or general knowledge. Often the acronyms and initialisms are, well, very straightforward. The clue for NIST is National Institute for Science and Technology. I gave students the duration of the next unit to complete the puzzle.

Word Count: 107   Word Crosses (Puzzle Score): 166

Key terms:
Accelerate, Apparent, Astrology, Celestial, Circumpolar, Cosmology, Ecliptic, Epicycle, Equator, Geocentric, Heliocentric, Horizon, Horoscope, Parallax, Planet, Poles, Precession, Retrograde, Year, Zenith, Zodiac

Selected additional terms: Aquarius, Arabic, Aries, Astronomy, Cancer, Capricornus, Constellation, Copernicus, Diameter, Flat, Galileo, Geyser, Hubble, Jupiter, Leo, Libra, Magnet, Mars, Mercury, Meteor, Milky, Mol, Moon, Nasa, NIST, Nobel, Ophiuchus, Optics, Owl, Pauli, Pisces, Planetarium, Polaris, Ptolemy, Renaissance, Sagittarius, Scorpius, Sputnik, Starlink, STP, Sun, Syene, Taurus, Uranus, Virgo, Voyager

All puzzles include an online option for tech-savvy users who can upload files to a server space. Here's a sample of an online version.

Words: 105   Puzzle Score: 162

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Great American Eclipse

As I post this, the "Great American Eclipse" is days away. NOVA released this video today as eclipse chasers are nervously monitoring cloud-cover forecasts and making their way toward the path of totality.

I worked a bit furiously to craft this question set for those who might find it useful.


Explore the spectacular cosmic phenomenon of a total solar eclipse. In April 2024, the Moon’s shadow is sweeping from Texas to Maine, as the U.S. witnesses its last total solar eclipse until 2044. This extraordinary astronomical event is plunging locations in the path of totality into darkness for more than four minutes–nearly twice as long as the last American eclipse in 2017. Learn how to watch an eclipse safely and follow scientists as they work to unlock secrets of our Sun–from why its atmosphere is hundreds of times hotter than its surface, to what causes solar storms and how we might one day predict them.

Participants include Amir Caspi, Craig DeForest, Jon Ghahate, Kelly Korreck, Judith Nakamura, Tyler Nordgren, Hakeem Oluseyi, Mathieu Ossendrijver, Sam Parks, Anjali Piette, Jenna Samra, Grant Tremblay, Anjali Tripathi, and Michael Wong.

For additional eclipse content, see:


TOTAL ECLIPSE (pre-2017)