Universe Cycle - Solar System (4)
Pre Lab 

   
OBJECTIVES:
  • Plotting the relative distances of planets from the Sun.
  • Exploring how some of the planets received their names.
VOCABULARY:
  • gas giants
  • planets
  • Solar System
  • terrestrial
MATERIALS:

Students make a scale model of the Solar System.

BACKGROUND:

The discovery of the planets took place over thousands of years. It was a widespread belief until the 1700's that everything revolved around the Earth. Early philosophers and scientists observed that a few bright objects in the sky did not keep their positions like the stars. They also observed that these objects all moved in a narrow band of the sky , which is now called the zodiac. These objects eventually came to be called planets, from the Greek word for "wanderer".

The Greeks and Romans associated the planets with their gods. Mercury, which is the quickest of all the planets, was named for the Roman fleet footed, fast running god. Venus was named after the goddess of love, because it shined so brightly before sunrise and sunset. Mars was named for the god of war, because it glows red and appears majestically high in the night sky. Jupiter, the largest planet, was given the name of the king of gods. Saturn appeared to move slowly in the sky, so it was named for the great grandfather of the gods. These were the planets that were apparent to early people. The other planets: Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, were not discovered until after the telescope was invented.

Some historians have speculated that the 5 moving planets, plus the Sun and Moon may account for the special regard many cultures have for the number 7. In Europe, this became the number of days in the week. Sunday is the Sun's day, Monday is the Moon's day, and Saturday is Saturn' day. The other four days are named for the Viking gods, who were similar to the Greek and Roman gods. Tuesday was named for the god Tiw who was the same as the god Mars. Wednesday was named after Woden or the Greek's Mercury; Thursday is for Thor or Jupiter and Friday is for Freya, who was equivalent to Venus.

PROCEDURE:
  1. You may wish to review the basic characteristics of the planets with the class. At this point, the students should be able to name the planets in order of distance from the Sun, and distinguish between the terrestrial and gas giant planets. Use the information charts below to guide your comments.

PLANETARY INFORMATION

DATA CHART I.

planet

diameter

low surface temp CE

high surface temp CE

distance from the Sun (km)

satellites

MERCURY

4,880

-170

+400

0.0579 x 109

0

VENUS

12,100

?

+480

0.1082 x 109

0

EARTH

12,740

-53

+50

0.1496 x 109

1

MARS

6,794

-127

-29

0.2279 x 109

2

JUPITER

143,200

?

- 148

0.7783 x 109

>63

SATURN

120,000

?

-178

1.427 x 109

>47

URANUS

51,800

?

-214

2.87 x 109

>27

NEPTUNE

49,500

?

-218

4.497 x 109

>13

PLUTO

2,500

?

-330?

5.9 x 109

>3

Note that the temperatures for Jupiter through Neptune are average surface temperatures.

DATA CHART II.

planet

mass of
planet

tilt of
axis

revolution

rotation

eccentricity

rings

MERCURY

.054

 

88 days

59 days

.21

0

VENUS

.82

 

224.7 days

243 days

.01

0

EARTH

1

23

365 days

24 hrs

.02

0

MARS

.11

24

687 days

24 hrs

.09

0

JUPITER

318

3

12 years

10 hrs

.05

1

SATURN

95

27

29 years

11 hrs

.06

7

URANUS

15

98

84 years

15.5 hrs

.05

10

NEPTUNE

17

50

165 years

16 hrs

.01

4

PLUTO

.9(?)

?

248 years

6.5 days

.25

0

  1. In this activity, students determine the relative distances of the planets from the Sun, and show these in a drawing. The students are asked to make the numbers proportional to real Solar System distances, so that they can make their drawings accurate. The model works best if the distances are converted into centimeters. The students may struggle to figure this out; but give them guidance as appropriate. You may want the students to work in groups of 2 or 3 to try and figure the problem out collectively. Remember to have the students start from the Sun and to round off the numbers.

First go over that you drop the 109 km because when you compare things that are the same, and they all contain the number you can disregard it. Have the students cross out all 109 km. Then look at the other numbers and have them round them off. You may have to reason with them and give them the rounded answers as listed below.

If students are not familiar with a metric ruler you may want to go over the fundamentals of centimeters and millimeters. It is easiest to use mm instead of cm, especially if you want it to fit on one page. However, if you have longer paper (i.e., butcher paper), cm will not be a problem. You could also make this fit on one sheet, by having the students divide these numbers by 2. If students cannot do division, do it with them and give them the answer. This helps them to understand why they should learn division.

If the students use centimeters, the drawing will not fit on one sheet of paper.

ANSWERS: [2 sheet solution] 0.6 cm or 6 mm (Mercury); 1 cm (Venus); 1.5 cm (Earth); 2.3 cm (Mars); 7.8 cm (Jupiter); 14 cm (Saturn); 29 cm (Uranus); 45 cm (Neptune); 59 cm (Pluto).

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