Using smartphone photographs of the Moon to acquaint students with non-Euclidean geometry

Abstract

Although they are sometimes considered problematic to grasp by students, the concepts behind non-Euclidean geometry can be taught using astronomical images. By using photographs of the Moon taken with a smartphone through a simple telescope, we were able to introduce these concepts to high-school students and college newcomers. By recognizing different Moon geological structures within the photograph, we teach students how to calculate distances of mountain ranges or areas of craters on the Moon’s surface, introducing the notions of geodesics and spherical triangles. Furthermore, students can empirically see that the correct estimations for the actual values cannot be obtained using flat geometry. Instead, by using three-dimensional curved geometry, precise estimates of lengths and areas of geological elements in the Moon can be computed with less than 4% error. These procedures help students understand, concretely, non-Euclidean geometry concepts.

Publication
American Journal of Physics
Hugo Caerols
Hugo Caerols
Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez
Rodrigo A. Carrasco
Rodrigo A. Carrasco
Associate Professor & Academic Director Master in Industrial Engineering
Felipe Asenjo
Felipe Asenjo
Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez