Education and
Public Engagement
at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
Explore! Jupiter's Family Secrets

Jump Start Jupiter


Jump Start: Jupiter! is a 60-minute kick-off for children ages 8 to 13 that sets the stage for further explorations and activities in Explore! Jupiter's Family Secrets. As a group, children discuss what they know about the solar system and Jupiter. They work in teams to read about the Sun, eight planets, asteroid belt, and the dwarf planet Pluto. They use their knowledge to create a poster about each object, which can be displayed in the library and used to create the Jump to Jupiter outdoor course. The children revisit what they have learned and prepare to explore further.

What's the Point?


For each group of 20 to 30 children:

For each child:

For the facilitator:



1. Invite the children to share what they know about our solar system family.

2. If possible, divide the children into 11 teams of two to three children each and give each team the name of one of the solar system objects: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Asteroid Belt, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto

3. Invite the teams to explore the websites, videos, and books to learn about their member of our solar system family! Consider dividing the children into smaller groups, or inviting older children to take turns reading to the group. Some questions they could consider:

4. Optional: If the children have questions about the vocabulary they are reading, have them begin a "vocabulary wall" — a place where they can write the words. Can others in the group help with the definition? Invite them to search for the meaning of the word, and have them share their findings with the group. Be sure the children understand the terms mentioned in their journals, including "mass," "diameter," and "mean."

5. Ask the children to make posters about the objects in our solar system. Give each team a paper plate and ask them to draw their object in color on it, or use craft items to depict it, using the books and Our Solar System lithographs for ideas. Provide each team with a small poster board and ask them to attach their plates to the board and label their object's name on the poster in big, bold letters. If time allows, ask the children to add interesting facts about their objects.

6. When they have finished creating their posters, ask the children to share what they have learned. Invite the teams to present their posters while the other children note the major features of each solar system object in their journals.

Invite the children to summarize their findings in their journals.

7. Share with the children that NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter is scheduled to launch in 2011 and will investigate not only the deepest mysteries of Jupiter's unique personality, but also the secrets of our solar system's origins. As Juno orbits Jupiter, its path will be slightly altered by the planet's gravity. By keeping track of the slight changes in the spacecraft's trajectory, scientists can learn more about the materials in Jupiter's interior. Juno will map Jupiter's magnetic field. Since the magnetic field is generated deep within the planet, this too will provide clues about the interior. Juno will measure the atmosphere’s temperature and amounts of water and ammonia at different depths. It will "see" more deeply than any instrument has before and the new data will help explain the planet's distinct banded appearance. Juno will measure the charged particles that slam into the atmosphere to produce Jupiter's own northern and southern lights (aurora). Its special "eyes" — an ultraviolet spectrometer — will "see" the aurora in a wavelength of light invisible to our eyes. Juno will also "listen" for the radio signals given off by these particles as they move through the magnetic field. JunoCam will take pictures of the planet, which scientists and students will use to study the poles.

Scientists still have many questions about our solar system, and other missions to Mercury, the Moon, Mars, Ceres and other asteroids, the dwarf planet Pluto, and comets will send back information about our solar system family!


Ask the children if they would also like to learn more about Jupiter and our solar system's family history.
If possible, build on the children's knowledge by offering them a future Jupiter's Family Secrets activity. Invite the children to return and use their posters to create an obstacle course in Jump to Jupiter!