Universe Cycle - Solar System (5)
Pre Lab 

   
OBJECTIVES:
  • Examining the planets.
  • Comparing and contrasting the features of the planets.
VOCABULARY:
  • gas giant
  • planet
  • terrestrial
MATERIALS:

Students search the Internet to obtain new information on the Solar System.


Mars, a terrestrial planet

BACKGROUND:



Saturn, a gas giant

The Sun, the planets, and countless minor objects such as asteroids and comets make up the Solar System. The Solar System is dynamic, always moving. Almost all of its components revolve around the Sun, held in orbit by immense gravitation attraction of the Sun. All of the planets, and many smaller objects also rotate, or spin on an axis.

The planets can be divided into two groups. Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars form the terrestrial planets. They are small and are composed of rock and metal, like the Earth. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are grouped as the Jovian or gas giant planets, because of their large sizes and gas-rich compositions. There is most likely a solid core in the gas giants, but this has not been confirmed. Planetary scientists know too little about Pluto to include it in either group. It is probably a terrestrial-like planet.

In the last decade, a wealth of new information on each of the planets has become available. The table on the next page summarizes several characteristics of each planet. Note that the temperature given for Venus is a direct measurement from a Russian spaceship for daytime. For Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, the temperatures are averages.

PLANET

diameter (km)

length of day

length of year

lowest surface temp C°

highest surface temp C°

MERCURY

4,880

59 days

88 days

-170

+400

VENUS

12,100

243 days

224.7 days

?

+480

EARTH

12,740

24 hours

365.25 days

-53

+50

MARS

6,794

24.5 hours

687 days

-143

+17

JUPITER

143,200

10 hours

11.86 yrs

?

-148

SATURN

120,000

10.5 hours

29.46 yrs

?

-178

URANUS

51,800

15.5 hours

84 yrs

?

-214

NEPTUNE

49,500

18.5 hours

165 yrs

?

-218

PLUTO

2,500

6.5 days

248 yrs

?

-330?


PROCEDURE:
  1. Hand out the Solar System Placemats and worksheets. Have the students fill out the worksheet using the placemat. Review their answers, using the chart shown above. Notice that the inner or terrestrial planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are more similar as a group, than the Jovian or gas giants of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Pluto is different, but considered a terrestrial-like planet.
     
  2. You may want to use this exercise to help students learn how to use search engines on the Internet. Have them go to your favorite search engine and use the names of the planets for a search. They can get the information from the internet instead of the placemats.
     
  3. Discuss any new information that students have learned. Remember the Internet probably has more current information.

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