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Teresa M. Schulz
Science Department
Lansing Community College
A Rose By Any Other Name: The Peculiar Case of Pluto

This dilemma case, developed for a general astronomy course, provides an introduction to our solar system by highlighting the peculiarities of Pluto. The main character, Dr. Maria Ocasio, is the chair of the Committee on Small Body Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the organization charged with assigning permanent names to asteroids and comets. After reviewing the scientific facts and historical background on Pluto, Dr. Ocasio is faced with the dilemma of deciding “What is Pluto” by answering the question, “What is a planet.”

Mask of the Black God: The Pleiades in Navajo Cosmology

One Navajo legend attributes the creation of the primary stars and constellations to "Black God." Today, a famous star cluster, the Pleiades, often appears on the traditional mask worn by chanters impersonating Black God during special ceremonies. In this case study, designed for an observational astronomy class or introductory astronomy class with a strong observational component, students learn about the Pleiades in Navajo cosmology while developing their observation and star map skills.

The Zarkah Stone: The Park Forest Meteorite Case

On the night of March 26, 2003, a brilliant fireball exploded and fragmented over south suburban Chicago, hammering houses and sidewalks with meteorites. Many people witnessed the event and collected the precious stones. This is the story about the meteorite that smashed through the roof and into the lives of the Zarkah family. Appropriate for an introductory astronomy or planetary science course, the case explores the physical and chemical characteristics of different types of meteorites and their different origins as well as the fascination and value they hold for the scientific community and collectors.