Torsion Pendulum Magnetometer

This project is designed with multiple intents:

  1. to design a sensitive torsion pendulum magnetometer capable of measuring small fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field, and to eventually have this apparatus stream data to the web in real time, creating a magnetic field monitoring station;
  2. to simultaneously create an upper level physics laboratory apparatus that can be used to measure the magnetic field created by current loops and permanent magnets, and to be able to study the properties of damped harmonic oscillators.
  3. to have fun and involve multiple students in the design, construction, and operation of this experiement.

To succeed in (1) may not be possible; magnetic field monitoring stations are (always, I think) placed far from civilization to eliminate the effects of magnetic field fluctuations from cars, trucks, and building EM fields. Perhaps we will end up building a sensitive traffic detector. This project is great hands-on experience, as it involves mechanical design, the physics of damped harmonic oscillators, magnetic interactions, calculation of off-axis magnetic field components of helmholtz coils, optics (the entire optical assembly to sense the rotation of the pendulum), electronics, computer interfacing, and programming.

Model Asteroids

This project aims to make a slowly rotating “asteroid” in the lab upon which we shine 5100K light and then examine the reflected light. The goal is to see how the shape and surface composition depend effect the light curve, as well as providing beginning astronomy students with an opportunity to use the same data analysis methods used by astronomers to reduce light curve data from actual asteroids.