Physics KS3/GCSE: Can you make a star on Earth?

Greg Foot demonstrates that a star is just like a continuous chemical reaction where hydrogen is converted into helium and produces all the elements that exist on Earth.

Greg begins by performing the thermite reaction between iron oxide and aluminium powder, in order to demonstrate that some chemical reactions can release large amounts of heat and light energy.

He explains that stars do not consist of iron oxide and aluminium but instead consists of plasma that transfers huge amounts of light and heat energy. Greg then demonstrates how to make plasma using a candle and a microwave oven.

The microwave energy strips electrons from the hot gas from the candle flame, creating an ionised gas called plasma. Just like a tiny star, the plasma emits both light and heat energy.

Teacher Notes

Students could use this short film as part of studying the electrochemical series and how different compounds react with one another.

It could also be used when studying the states of matter e.g. solid, liquid, gas and plasma, and when studying atomic structure and what happens to an atom when electrons are removed.

Students could also find out what is happening in our Sun and how coronal mass ejections and the solar wind produce effects such as the aurora borealis in the Earth’s polar regions.

Curriculum Notes

These short films will be relevant for teaching physics and chemistry at both KS3 and KS4 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 4/5 in Scotland.

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