CT and Kepler’s 3rd Law

The Kepler spacecraft made some incredible discoveries over the years. The planetary system Kepler-11 is very interesting. It is a very compact solar system with 6 planets. Of course, the spacecraft is named for Johannes Kepler who first empirically determined the now famous three laws of planetary motion.

Kepler-11 System from NASA Exoplanet Catalog

I felt like this small dataset would make a great computational thinking (CT) activity. CT can mean writing programming code or working with a spreadsheet to do some data science or creating or using a model or simulation. The goal is to explore Kepler’s 3rd law of planetary motion.

Kepler’s 3rd Law

In the original activity, students linear the data set using Kepler’s 3rd law of planetary motion to determine the mass of the star Kepler-11. Check out the spreadsheet version here. This is meant to be an introductory exercise is working with data in a spreadsheet. Students create a plot and answer questions using some basic skills.

Spreadsheet Version of Kepler’s 3rd Law Lab

Although the spreadsheet version of the lab worked out pretty well, I decided to make a Desmos calculator version. Students can work with the whole list of planetary data all at once. This is more like a students creating a numerical model to find the mass of the star. Check out the Desmos version here.

Desmos Version of Kepler’s 3rd Law Lab

Finally I decided to create a version of the Kepler’s 3rd law lab using some Python code in Google Colab. This version uses some standard data science techniques to determine the mass of the central star in the Kepler-11 system. Check out the Google Colab version on my GitHub repository.

Google Colab Python version of Kepler’s 3rd Law

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