1 Northern Stars Planetarium 15 Western Ave., Fairfield, ME (207) Page 1 Exploring Our Solar System Teacher s Guide Exploring Our Solar System is a planetarium program that explores the latest discoveries regarding the nine known planets, the asteroids, and the Sun. Because this is a partly live presentation, there will be ample time for questions. We encourage participation and discovery. This Teacher s Guide is designed to help you, the teacher, prepare your class for their upcoming visit The Northern Stars Planetarium when it comes to your school. Please be aware that this program is offered to a variety of grade levels (3 rd through 8 th ), being a live presentation it is not difficult to adapt the material to the proper age level; however, everyone gets this Teacher s Guide. Not everything presented here will be appropriate for your specific grade level, some of it may be too old, some too young. Use only what is appropriate and useful to you. Study Questions 1. What is a planet? What is the difference between a planet and a star? What is the difference between a planet and a moon? 2. What is the difference between revolution and rotation? 3. What are some of the differences between the inner planets and the outer planets? (Inner planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars. Outer Planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.) 4. Why is Pluto no longer called a planet? What is a Dwarf Planet? 5. Do all planets have gravity? 6. How does the size and mass of a planet affect the amount of gravity? 7. How many stars are in the Solar System? 8. What is the Sun? How is it different from all the other stars? 9. What are the constellations? Who created them? 10. Do astonomers think there are planets going around other stars? Why?
2 Northern Stars Planetarium 15 Western Ave., Fairfield, ME (207) Page 2 Vocabulary Albedo The reflecting power of a planet or other non-luminous object. An albedo of 1.0 means that it reflects 100% of the light that hits it; 0.0 means it absorbs 100% of the light or reflects 0% of the light. Our moon s albedo is a low 0.07, while Venus has a high albedo of 0.7. Asteroid Also called Minor Planets, they are small rocky objects that orbit the Sun. Most (95%) are found in the asteroid belt, which is the region between Mars and Jupiter. There may be up to 100,000 asteroids, but only about 3,000 have been catalogued. Atmosphere The outer gaseous layers of a star or planet. The air. Not all planets have atmospheres. Constellations Dot-to-dot pictures drawn in the stars, using stars as the dots. There are 88 official constellations in the sky. They are a means of mapping the night sky. Many of them have their origins in ancient times, for example, 48 of the 88 came from Greek mythology. Crater Circular ridges with deep centers. They are most often caused by either meteorite impacts or volcanic eruptions. Impact craters are more common on planets and moons with thin or no atmospheres; thicker atmospheres tend to burn up the meteoroid before it can hit the surface. Gas This refers to substances in a gaseous state (as opposed to solid or liquid). The air is a gas. Do not confuse this term with gasoline. Gas Giant Planet This refers to a planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. These planets are gaseous without any solid surface that could be landed upon. Gravity The force that attracts objects together. Earth s gravity pulls us down when we jump. The Sun s gravity keeps the planets from flying out of their orbits. All objects have gravity (even you!), the more massive something is the more gravity it has. All planets have gravity. Orbit The invisible path a planet follows around the Sun. Planetarium A special room with a domed ceiling and special projectors used to make the ceiling look like the night sky. A planetarium is not an observatory. Observatories are buildings that house telescopes for viewing the real sky. Revolution The motion when one object goes around another. (ie. The Earth revolves around the Sun once every days.) Rotation The motion when an objects spins on an axis going through itself. (ie. The Earth rotates or spins on its axis once every 24 hours.) Space Probe This is a type of satellite that travels from Earth to explore other planets. There are no people on board a space probe, it is run by computers. They take pictures and do scientific experiments to help us learn about these other worlds. Some examples of famous space probes are: Voyagers 1-2, Curiosity, Spirit, Opportunity, Magellan, Galileo, Cassini, Pathfinder, Phoenix, and Messenger.
3 Northern Stars Planetarium 15 Western Ave., Fairfield, ME (207) Page 3 Match Game Match the planet on the left with the features that go with it on the right. Mercury Biggest Planet Red Planet Venus Made of ice Planet with Life Earth Has Big Red Spot Closest to the Sun Mars Has 67 Moons Is Tilted on its Side Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto Sometimes is farther from the Sun than Pluto Is no longer a planet Was hit by Comet Shoemaker/Levy in 1994 Rusty Planet These Four Planets All Have Rings Rains Acid & is Cloudy 70% Covered with Water
4 Northern Stars Planetarium 15 Western Ave., Fairfield, ME (207) Page 4 Making A Scale Model of the Solar System This exercise is an excellent way for your students to gain a better understanding of the actual scale of our Solar System, in terms of relative sizes, distances, and speeds. The materials needed are simple, inexpensive, and easily obtained. The activity is three-fold. First it deals with relative sizes. Secondly, it covers relative distances. And lastly, it demonstrates relative speeds. Materials Needed: 1 Beach ball (preferably yellow or orange) 1 Set of Play Doh or some other modelling clay 1 String (13 meters or 40 feet long) Preparation: Take the string and tie a loop about 5 centimeters (2 ) in diameter in one end. This is where you will place the beach ball Sun later on. Then tie an overhand knot at the appropriate distances that each succeeding planet will be from the beach ball Sun. Use the following planet scale information chart to tell you how far away from the Sun each knot should be tied. Planet Scale Information Chart: Planet Scaled Distance from the Sun Scaled Diameter Mercury 13 cm (=58 million kilometers) 1.5 mm 5 inches (=36 million miles) 1/16 inch Venus 23 cm (=108 million kilometers) 6 mm 9 inches (=67 million miles) 1/4 inch Earth 31 cm (=150 million kilometers) 6 mm 12 inches (=93 million miles) 1/4 inch Mars 46 cm (=227 million kilometers) 3 mm 18 inches (=141 million miles) 1/8 inch Jupiter 155 cm (=779 million kilometers) 25 mm 61 inches (=483 million miles) 1 inch Saturn 274 cm (=1428 million kilometers) 20 mm 108 inches (= 886 million miles) 3/4 inch Uranus 572 cm (=2974 million kilometers) 14 mm 225 inches (=1782 million miles) 1/2 inch Neptune 889 cm (=4506 million kilometers) 13 mm 350 inches (=2794 million miles) 1/2 inch Pluto 1174 cm (=5913 million kilometers) 1.3 mm 462 inches (=3666 million miles) 1/16 inch
5 Northern Stars Planetarium 15 Western Ave., Fairfield, ME (207) Page 5 Scale Model Solar System Continued... Part One: Size Scale HINT: You might want to make two or more model Solar Systems so that every student can partake. Assign every student a planet and give them a lump of clay more than big enough to make their planet. If you are using Play Doh, you might want to use appropriate colors (ie. red for Mars, Blue for Earth, etc.). Explain that you want them to guess how big their planet would be if the beach ball were the size of the Sun. It is best not to have them attempt to make rings for Saturn. Have each student make her planet out of clay according to how big she thinks it should be. Almost always, everyone s planet will be too big. Once they are done, go through the group and change their planets to the correct size. Correcting the students in this fashion will make the actual size much more impressive. Every student must then be responsible for not losing her planet. This isn t necessarily easy, as some planets, like Mercury and Pluto, are only about the size of a grain of sand! Part Two: Distance Scale This part of the model should be done either in the gymnasium, cafeteria, or outside. In order to make the distance scale workable within a school environment, we found it best to represent distance on a smaller scale than that used to illustrate size (See the footnote on the previous page). Separate your students into their various Solar Systems (if you have more than one). Have each student take her clay planet and place it where she thinks the appropriate distance for that planet should be from the beach ball Sun. Once each student has placed her planet down where she thinks it belongs, take out the string with the proper distance scale measured out in knots. Then, one at a time, beginning with Mercury, have each student move her planet to its proper position. Again, this makes the students aware that their perspectives are different from reality. The Solar System is probably much larger than any of them had guessed. Part Three: Relative Motion Now that your model Solar System is laid out properly, have your students pick up their respective planets. Tell them to try to keep the same distance from the Sun and have them walk at approximately the same speed around the Sun (in their respective orbits!). Which planet goes around the Sun first? Once Mercury makes one revolution, have them all stop and examine how much of their own orbits they have covered compared to Mercury s complete orbit. (In actuality the distance is not the only factor in different period orbits. Inner planets do move faster than outer planets. However, for demonstration purposes, having the students all walk at about the same speed works well.) *The size scale is 1 cm=140,000 km (1 =225,000 miles) while the distance scale is about 32 times smaller with 1 cm=4,500,000km (1 =7,000,000 miles). We found it best to represent distance on a smaller scale than used for size. If we maintained the same scale for distance as for size, the string would have been 420 meters long rather than 13 meters!
6 Northern Stars Planetarium 15 Western Ave., Fairfield, ME (207) Page 6
7 Northern Stars Planetarium 15 Western Ave., Fairfield, ME (207) Page 7 Solar System Facts The Solar System s Only Star: SUN Rotates: 26 days. Surface Temp: 12,000 F (6000 C) Core Temp: 27 Million F (15 Million C) Diameter: 865,000 mi. (1,395,161 km) A middle aged (4.5 Billion yrs. old), average sized star. It s outer atmosphere the heliosphere extends beyond Pluto. The Inner Planets: MERCURY Rotates: 58 days 16 hrs. Revolves: 88 days. High Temp: 700 F (350 C) Low Temp: -270 F (-170 C). Diameter: 3,031 mi. (4,878 km.) Gravity: 0.38 X Earth s. No moons, rings or atmosphere. Dominant feature is craters. Visited by the Mariner and Messenger space probes. VENUS Rotates: 243 days. Revolves: days. Average Temp: 900 F (480 C) Diameter: 7,541 mi. (12,104 km.) Gravity: 0.9 X Earth s. Thick Carbon Dioxide (CO 2 ) atmosphere. No Moons or rings. Visited by Pioneer Venus, Venera, Magellan, Galileo, and several other space probes. EARTH Rotates: 23 hrs. 56 min. Revolves: days. High Temp: 130 F (58 C) Low Temp: -126 F (-88 C). Gravity: 1 X Earth s. Diameter: 7,927 mi. (12,756 km.) Nitrogen & Oxygen atmosphere. 1 moon, no rings. The Earth s surface is 75% covered with water. MARS Rotates: 24 hrs. 37 min. Revolves: 1.88 yrs. High Temp: 80 F (27 C). Low Temp: -190 F (-123 C). Diameter: 4,197 mi. (6,794 km). Gravity: 0.38 X Earth s. Thin Carbon Dioxide atmosphere. 2 moons, no rings. In 1996 scientist found evidence of fossilized bacteria in a meteorite believed to have originated on Mars-- perhaps long ago Mars had life! Visited by Viking 1 & 2, Pathfinder, Sojourner, Mars Global Surveyor, Spirit, Opportunity, Phoenix and most recently the Curiosity Rover.
8 Northern Stars Planetarium 15 Western Ave., Fairfield, ME (207) Page 8 The Outer Planets: JUPITER Rotates: 9 hrs. 48 min. Revolves: yrs. Cloud top Temp: -140 F (-95 C) Diameter: 88,733 mi. (142,796 km.). Gravity: 3 X Earth s. Composition: Mostly Hydrogen, Helium. 67 moons, 1 small ring. Visited by Pioneers 10 & 11, Voyagers 1 & 2, and Galileo space probes. SATURN Rotates: 10 hrs. 39 min. Revolves: yrs. Cloud top Temp: -292 F (-180 C) Diameter: 74,600 mi. (120,000 km.). Gravity: 1.32 X Earth s. Composition: Mostly Hydrogen, Helium. 62 moons. It has a large ring system. Visited by Pioneers 10 & 11, Voyager 1 & 2, and coming soon the Cassini Space Probe. URANUS Rotates: 16 hrs. 48 min. Revolves: 84 yrs. Cloud top Temp: -346 F (-210 C). Diameter: 31,600 mi. ((50,800 km.). Gravity: 0.93 X Earth s. Composition: Mostly Hydrogen, Helium, some Ammonia, and Methane. 27 moons, about a dozen thin rings. Uranus is tipped on its side. Visited by Voyager 2 in NEPTUNE Rotates: 16 hrs 3 min. Revolves: yrs. Cloud top Temp: -364 F (-220 C). Diameter: 30,200 mi. (48,600 km.). Gravity: 1.23 X Earth s. Composition: Mostly Hydrogen, Helium, some Methane and Ammonia. 13 moons, 3 thin rings, 2 broad rings. Visited by Voyager 2 in The Dwarf Planets: This term designates objects that 1) orbit the Sun, 2) are round, and 3) do not have enough mass to have cleared their orbits of boulders and debris (Planets all do this). PLUTO Rotates: 6 days, 9 hrs. Revolves: 248 yrs. Temp: -400 F (-238 C). Diameter: 1900 mi. (3,000 km.). Gravity: 0.03 X Earth s. Has a very thin atmosphere. 5 moons. The largest moon, Charon, is half the size of Pluto. Pluto s orbit is very elliptical and tilted; it actually crossed inside Neptune s orbit from Pluto is no longer classified as a planet, it is a dwarf planet.
9 Northern Stars Planetarium 15 Western Ave., Fairfield, ME (207) Page 9 QUAOAR & THE KUIPER BELT Quaoar is approximately 800 miles in diameter and is slightly farther away from the Sun than Pluto. It is made primarily of ices. The Kuiper Belt is a band of icy objects just beyond the orbit of Neptune; similar to the Asteroid Belt, the Kuiper Belt is made of objects too small to be labelled as planets. Both Quaoar and Pluto reside within the Kuiper Belt. SEDNA Revolves around the Sun every 11,500 years. Diameter 620 miles (1000 km). It was discovered in It is roughly three tumes further away than Pluto, well outside the Kuiper Belt. ERIS (formerly 2003 UB 313 or Xena) Revolves around the Sun every 560 years. It was discovered in This object was at first believed to be larger than Pluto, but subsequent studies suggest it is about the same size as Pluto. It is classified as a dwarf planet like Pluto. It is made of ices. Its orbit is tilted nearly 45 degrees up at an angle compared to the plane of Earth's orbit.
10 Northern Stars Planetarium 15 Western Ave., Fairfield, ME (207) Page 10 Bibliography Younger Students: Branley, Franklyn M., The Planets in our Solar System, New York: Harper and Row, Harper Junior Books, The Sky is Full of Stars, New York: Harper and Row, Harper Junior Books, Cole, Joanna, The Magic School Bus, Lost in the Solar System, New York: Scholastic, Inc., Fradin, Dennis B., Comets, Asteroids, and Meteors, Chicago: Children s Press, New True Books, Rey, H.A., The Stars, A New Way to See Them, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., (This is probably the best book for learning constellations for any age level.) Ride, Sally & Okie, Susan, To Space and Back, New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, Older Students: Beatty & Chaikin, The New Solar System, 2 nd Ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (High school to college age level) Brown, Mike, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, New York: Spiegel & Grau, Gallant, Roy, Our Universe, 2 nd Ed., Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society, Lomb, Nick, The Transit of Venus, 1631 to the Present, New York: The Experiment, 2011 Moeschl, Richard, Exploring the Sky, 100 Projects for Beginning Astronomers, Chicago: Chicago Review Press, (Contains lots of project ideas for both teachers and older students.) Pogue, William, How Do You Go To The Bathroom in Space? New York: Tom Doherty Associates, (Younger Readers may also enjoy this Q & A book about space flight.) For Teachers: Braus, Judy, Editor, NatureScope: Astronomy Adventures, Washington, D.C.: National Wildlife Federation, Universe in the Classroom, Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Teacher s Newsletter, Dept. N. 390 Ashton Ave., San Francisco, CA (free to all teachers, request on school letterhead.)
11 Northern Stars Planetarium 15 Western Ave., Fairfield, ME (207) Page 11 Planetarium Program Evaluation After the Northern Stars Planetarium has visited your class, please take a moment to fill out this evaluation. Your suggestions are very valuable to us! Mail the completed evaluation to :...Northern Stars Planetarium 15 Western Ave. Fairfield, Maine Or To 1. Show Name: 2.Group grade/age level: 3. Was the material presented at an appropriate level for your class? 4. Was the amount of material discussed: Enough Overwhelming Not Enough 5. Should any parts of the presentation be developed further?. If so, which parts? 6. Was there sufficient time for questions and answers? Yes No 7. Were you studying astronomy or another related subject at the time of the planetarium s visit? Yes No If so, was the planetarium visit helpful? 8. Was the Teacher s Guide helpful in preparing your class for the planetarium visit? Yes No Which parts were most helpful? Which parts were least helpful? 9. Did the presenter present the material in a clear and understandable fashion? 10. How would you rate the overall program given to your class in the planetarium? 11. (Optional) Your name & school: Please feel free to write any further comments on the back. Thank you for your time! Your Comments Make a Difference!
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