Lunar and Planetary Institute

Weather Stations
EXPLORE! Solar System

Weather Stations


In this 1 1/2-hour series of brief station activities, children ages 9 to 13 take a closer look at Jupiter's distinct banded appearance, violent storms, and clouds of many different colors.

Weather Station 1. Temperature and Pressure
Children discover the relationship between temperature and pressure in the lower atmospheres of Jupiter and Earth. They chart the increasing temperature as they add pressure to a 2–L soda bottle with a Fizz-Keeper pump.

Weather Station 2. Phase Change
Children observe the water cycle in action! Water vapor in a tumbler condenses.

Weather Station 3. Clouds
Children observe Earth clouds and discover that Jupiter also has different kinds of clouds at its upper, middle, and lower levels. They consider whether the Juno mission will discover water clouds in Jupiter's lower atmosphere.

Weather Station 4. Storms
Children test how corn starch and glitter in water move when disturbed. They compare their observations with videos of Jupiter's and Earth's storm movements.

Weather Station 5. Winds
Children use a toaster to generate wind and compare the appliance's heat source to Jupiter's own hot interior. They discover that convection drives wind on Jupiter and on Earth.

Weather Station 6. Jovian Poetry
Imaginations soar as children embark to describe Jupiter's clouds from a poet's perspective! They consider poems about Earth's clouds and artists' renderings of Jupiter's clouds as they compose their poems.

Weather Station 7. How's the Weather on Jupiter?
In this open-ended inquiry, children build their own weather instruments from common materials. Their designs, intended for use on a spacecraft exploring Jupiter, may be tested on Earth.


The activities in this module can be done in many different ways.
They can be facilitator-led and undertaken sequentially by the entire audience, or they can be set up as stations that are visited by small groups or individuals.

If stations are set up, it is recommended that an adult or older child be present at each station to serve as a host and to prompt the children's thinking. Station hosts may also demonstrate and/or assist younger children in completing the activity. Each activity has facilitator’s notes for the hosts.

  • Become familiar with the first section of the background information:
  • Use the shopping list to purchase materials.
  • For stations, locate seven areas that are accessible by groups of 3 to 6 children.
  • Label each station with a banner or poster and place the appropriate materials at the station.
  • Divide the children into teams of 3 to 6; have them circulate from station to station.
  • Provide each child with a My Trip to Jupiter Journal and remind them to annotate their "Weather Stations" pages for each station visited.
  • Optional: Post a "vocabulary wall": a chalk or white board, or poster paper and markers, to record terms that come up as they visit the stations.

Introduce the activity with the following story to set the stage for this stations activity.

Optional: Play the movie of Voyager 1's approach while you read the story.

Imagine you are in a spacecraft, flying toward Jupiter! As you approach the planet, in grows larger in your windows until it fills your entire view.

Jupiter is 11 times wider than Earth! Everything here is BIG! Its swirling clouds conceal its interior from us.

Your imaginary spacecraft will be able to do something real spacecraft haven't been able to do: dive into the atmosphere of Jupiter! Your spacecraft will move slowly, taking time to examine the layers of the atmosphere. In our imaginations, our spacecraft can hold up to the planet's cold outer layers, hot interior, turbulent storms, and immense pressures. Hang on for the ride!

As the children finish the stations invite them back to a common area where they can share their drawings, notes, poems, and comparisons of Earth's and Jupiter's atmospheres.


Summarize that Jupiter has a distinct banded appearance, violent storms, and clouds of many different colors. Jupiter's atmosphere can be compared to Earth's in many ways, but its rapid rotation, strong convection, deep layers, and composition generate exceptional weather.

Ask the children to describe what they think the clouds and weather — including the wind speeds and directions, precipitation, and temperatures — are like in Jupiter's atmosphere. Invite them to share their drawings, plots, and conclusions with the group. Have them share what questions they still have about Jupiter's atmosphere. Remind them that the Juno spacecraft will collect data — just as the children themselves did during this activity — to help uncover the mysteries of Jupiter's atmosphere. Juno will measure the atmosphere's temperature and amounts of water and ammonia at different depths, helping to explain the planet's distinct banded appearance. This information will help scientists understand the winds deep in Jupiter's atmosphere and piece together Jupiter's internal structure. JunoCam will take pictures of the planet, which scientists and students will use to study the poles.

If possible, build on the children's knowledge by offering them a future Jupiter's Family Secrets activity. Children ages 8 to 9 may wrap up their investigations of Jupiter by attending the concluding activity, My Trip to Jupiter, where they create scrapbooks to document their own journeys into Jupiter's deepest mysteries! Further investigations are offered for children ages 10 to 13, including Investigating the Insides, where teams mimic how scientists discover clues about the interiors of planets.

Last updated
July 29, 2011


Back to top