PUMAS (poo' • mas) -- is a collection of brief examples showing how math and science topics taught in K-12 classes can be used in interesting settings, including every day life.
The examples are written primarily by scientists, engineers, and other content experts having practical experience with the material. They are aimed mainly at classroom teachers, and are available to all interested parties via the PUMAS web site.
Our goal is to capture, for the benefit of pre-college education, the flavor of the vast experience that working scientists have with interesting and practical uses of math and science.
- Ralph Kahn
Pumas Editor and Founder
Determining the Altitude of Iridium Flares by James Foster and Owe Manfred
If you have a clear night and you’re somewhat removed from city lights, many satellites are fairly easy objects to see. They look like faint stars (occasionally bright stars) gliding across the night sky. Sometimes satellites look like airplanes, but airplanes have blinking lights that are usually colored. What’s interesting about Iridium satellites, from a star gazing point of view, is that they can suddenly brighten and may easily outshine every star or planet in the sky. Such dramatic “flaring” is a result of the special composition and configuration of the antenna on these satellites. I suspect that a number of future UFO sightings will be attributed to these things. You may be curious about how high Iridium satellites are as they wander across the sky. With just a little information, we can calculate the altitude of the Iridium satellites and the altitudes of other satellites as well.
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We are always looking for neat examples of Practical Uses of Math And Science.