Lunar and Planetary Institute






How's the Weather on Jupiter?
EXPLORE! Solar System

 

Weather Stations: How's the Weather on Jupiter?

Overview

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.

What's the Point?

  • Scientists and engineers worked together to design and build the Juno spacecraft, which launched in 2011.
  • Spacecraft use tools to measure the properties of planets.
  • The Juno spacecraft's instruments will study Jupiter's atmosphere and help scientists understand its weather.

Materials

The following materials are for this Weather Stations activity.
Three sets are recommended for a station:

  • Craft supplies and tools, such as:
          • Clear cups
          • Ribbon
          • Crepe paper
          • Dowels
          • Rulers
          • Brads
          • Cardboard
          • Construction paper
          • Paper plates
          • Thermometers, preferably plastic
          • Sponges
          • Popsicle sticks
          • Various metal objects, such as nuts, bolts, washers, screws, nails, jar lids
          • Pipe cleaners
          • Gift shred
          • Tissue paper
          • Clear cellophane
          • Plastic sandwich bags
          • Straight-sided glass containers (such as clean olive jars)
          • Plastic bottles (such as clean water bottles)
          • Drinking straws
          • Play-Doh™
          • String
          • Fishing line
          • Staplers
          • Glue
          • Tape
          • Coloring supplies

For each child:

Preparation

  • Set out the materials.
  • Optional: Provide an outdoor location where the instruments can be monitored over a period of time ranging from an hour to several months.

Facilitator's Note: This activity is intended as an open-ended inquiry. If you choose to provide more guidance, specifications for creating weather instruments using these craft materials are described in the following projects:

Activity

1. Introduce the activity with a discussion about weather.

  • What is weather? The conditions of the atmosphere at a given place and time. It changes daily and with the seasons.
  • What are some important features of weather that we can measure? What features have they considered at the other stations? Temperature, pressure, wind direction and speed, precipitation, and cloud type.
  • How do meteorologists (scientists who study the atmosphere and especially weather) measure these features? They use a variety of instruments on the ground and in space.
  • Does Jupiter have weather? Yes! It has a turbulent atmosphere.

2. Ask the children to imagine that they are sending a spacecraft to Jupiter to record its weather conditions. Their imaginary spacecraft will be able to do something real spacecraft haven’t been able to do: dive into the atmosphere! It will withstand the planet's cold outer layers, hot interior, turbulent storms, and immense pressures. Explain that they will use craft materials and tools to create their own scientific instruments for the spacecraft. Have them describe or draw pictures of their creations in their journals.

3. Optional: Invite the children to test their designs outdoors. Have them take measurements over a set period of time (ranging from an hour to several months). Ask them to record the measurements in their journals.

Conclusion

NASA engineers worked with scientists to design scientific instruments for the Juno mission to Jupiter. It will measure the components of the atmosphere and temperatures at different depths. Since the spacecraft will observe the planet only from orbit, its tools will be similar to those used by satellites to study Earth's weather. Scientists have been watching Jupiter's storms for hundreds of years through telescopes and then recently, through cameras on spacecraft orbiting or flying by the planet.Juno will measure the atmosphere's temperature and amounts of water and ammonia at different depths. It will "see" more deeply than any spacecraft has before! Scientists will use this information to understand how Jupiter can have such strong winds deep inside and how the bands are formed. Juno will also continue to document the appearance of storms as it orbits Jupiter, and students will work with scientists to take those pictures with JunoCam.

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