The Hands-On Universe project is designed to allow students to explore the Universe using scientific data, a computer and the power of their imagination. Using specially designed software called SalsaJ (download here), students can investigate volcanos and craters on Mars, discover planets outside our solar system, or weigh a galaxy! These activities can be found here.

Other exercises show how to use a simple webcam as an astronomical observatory at your own school, how to conduct a variety of simple experiments with everyday materials such as building an electric motor or a spectroscope, or how to use a computer to find where you are on the earth.

Astronomy with SalsaJ
Webcam astronomy
Other astronomy activities
Classroom experiments and activities


  • Classroom experiments & activities


    Make a simple spectroscope and learn how scientists identify the elements in the stars! Or build your own electric motor! These activities and more are simple and inexpensive ways to get your students engaged in science. Each exercise comes with complete instructions including what to buy, and how to conduct each simple experiment or activity in your own classroom.


    Easy-to-make models of an electric motor, home-made spectroscope using an old CD, perform Galileo's famous acceleration experiment, get refraction index using a low-cost laser pointer, and more...

  • Other astronomy activities


    Listed below are other astronomical exercises that promote the hands-on philosophy. Included are an exploration of our Sun using real Solar images from the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Coimbra, an exercise designed to make the Solar System a tool to learn math and physics, software allowing the study of the spectra of the stars, and a radio telescope data mapping the Milky Way galaxy. These last data can be analyzed using the SalsaJ software (download here ).


    Join the useful game of supernova stars observation, milky way spiral arms hunting, or counting of sunspots, and more... 

  • Webcam astronomy


    Imagine building your very own astronomical observatory at your school! For the cost of an inexpensive Webcam and following the simple instructions found here, you can soon be observing the moon, planets, and even other galaxies! Instructions for such observations are included, and the additional exercises listed below include example observations that can be done with such a system.


    In order to carry out the observations we are going to need: a webcam, a photographic lens or a telescope, and a computer with appropriate software.

  • Astronomy with SalsaJ


    Using the SalsaJ software (download here), students and teachers can make the Universe their laboratory. The hands-on exercises below are designed to allow students to use real astronomical data to find a new planet, explore volcanos on the moons of Jupiter, classify stars, or weigh a galaxy! Each exercise comes complete with real astronomical data and detailed instructions for how to display, analyze, and interpret the data using the SalsaJ software. This software is free, and is multi-platform and multi-lingual (languages supported include English, French, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Greek, Portuguese, Swedish, Northern Sami, Arabic, and Chinese).

    At your convenience, a single package containing all the data and files (but not the guides!) needed for the following exercises is available here : - 25.28 Mb


    Simply download the software, choose an exercise and you are ready to explore the Universe!

  • Archive
    Old versions of exercises or guides based on SalsaJ 1.4.
  • Radio-astronomy