Characteristics of Objects in the Solar System

This page was developed as part of the NASA-funded Sustainable Trainer Engagement Program by LPI
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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