Characteristics of Objects in the Solar SystemSTEP Participant home page
Focus is not on detailed comparisons with Earth, but instead, on broad differences in mass, density, categorizing—those items likely to be tested on STAAR tests.
Participating as Students:
Define terrestrial planets, gas giants, star, comet, asteroid, moon, dwarf planet
Activities on Planetary Characteristics
- Sorting the Solar System
Students explore some of the different objects in the Solar System and create their own categories for them. They then have a discussion about what categories scientists currently assign to each object.
- Impact Craters
Students determine the factors affecting the appearance of impact craters and ejecta by dropping impactors into a crater box.
- Water Balloon Impacts
Students measure the diameter of their water balloons, model an impact, measure the diameter of the “crater” area, and determine the ratio of impactor to crater.
- Make a Comet
This simulation of a comet uses dry ice and other ingredients.
- Goldilocks and the Three Planets
Students determine the composition of some gases in Earth’s, Venus’, and Mars’ atmospheres, and then mathematically compare the amount of the greenhouse gas, CO2, on the planets.
- Seeing the Moon
These modules demonstrate how to take spectra of rocks and then how those spectra can be used to make a mineralogical map.
Solar System Origins
- Sticking the Early Planets Together
Students use small clumps of clay to model how planets may have formed through the process of accretion of smaller particles.
- Modeling Planetary Interiors and Differentiation
Students model the interior structure of the terrestrial planets and the process of differentiation using solids and liquids of different densities
- Article and Video on Building Planets
This article and attached videos describe experiments that astronaut Don Pettit conducted in microgravity which showed particles unexpectedly accreting, probably due to electrostatics.
- Solar System Overview (powerpoint)
- Think-Pair-Share Questions
- Solar System Misconceptions
- Links to additional activities and information