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Program Wildest Weather in the Solar System

  • 1. Build background on how scientists learn about weather on other planets.
    Ask: How do we know about weather in our solar system? If manned space flights have only traveled to the moon, how do we know about environmental conditions on other planets? Explain to students that, for decades, NASA has been sending space probes—unmanned spacecraft—to measure and record conditions on the inner and outer planets of our solar system. Before that, scientists analyzed conditions on other planets with observations made by telescope. Tell students that in this activity they will look at the information scientists have gleaned about these distant destinations. They will learn more about space probes in later activities.

    2. Have students brainstorm characteristics of extreme weather on other planets.
    Explain to students that Jupiter and Saturn are mostly made up of gas. They are millions of miles farther from the sun than Earth. Ask: How do you think these conditions affect weather there? How do you think extreme weather on other planets compares to extreme weather on Earth? Record students’ responses on the board.

    3. View and take notes on the video “Solar System 101.”
    Show students the National Geographic video “Solar System 101.” If needed, show the video more than once. Allow students time to record notes about new information that gives them insight into weather in our solar system. 

    4. Have students complete the worksheet Planet Investigation.
    Distribute a copy of the handout Environmental Conditions in Our Solar System to each student. Read aloud the directions and answer any questions students may have. Have them use the information in the handout to compare and contrast weather in our solar system. Then distribute a copy of the worksheet Planet Investigation to each student. Read aloud the directions and answer any questions students may have. Have them use the information in the handout to complete the worksheet. Emphasize that in worksheet questions five and six, there are no right answers, but students should use what they learned from the video and the handout to think carefully about their ideas. Make sure students understand that weather on other planets may be dramatically different from weather on Earth.

    Informal Assessment

    Ask students to orally explain which planets they think may be good candidates for weather study. Have them list the factors that support their answers.

    Extending the Learning

    You can use this series of activities to prepare students to design their own space probe. If so, let students know that each of these activities is leading to that goal and encourage them to note any probe design ideas as they move through the activities.

  • Subjects & Disciplines

    • Science

    Learning Objectives

    Students will:

    • identify atmospheric conditions of the planets in our solar system
    • determine which weather conditions may be possible given the atmospheric conditions on other planets

    Teaching Approach

    • Learning-for-use

    Teaching Methods

    • Brainstorming
    • Discussions
    • Multimedia instruction
    • Visual instruction

    Skills Summary

    This activity targets the following skills:

    • Critical Thinking Skills
      • Analyzing
      • Understanding

    National Standards, Principles, and Practices

    National Science Education Standards

  • What You’ll Need

    Materials You Provide

    • Pencils
    • Pens

    Required Technology

    • Internet Access: Required
    • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector, Speakers
    • Plug-Ins: Flash

    Physical Space

    • Classroom

    Grouping

    • Large-group instruction

    Other Notes

    In 2006, the status of Pluto was changed from a planet to a dwarf planet. A dwarf planet is not gravitationally dominant. It shares orbital space with other bodies of similar sizes.

  • Background Information

    Scientists and astronomers are interested in learning more about our solar system. Before any exploration can be done, even via remote sensing by probes or satellites, weather must be considered. Data must be collected through observations from Earth to determine the possible environmental conditions the hardware must be able to withstand.



    Vocabulary

    Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    extreme weather Noun

    rare and severe events in the Earth's atmosphere, such as heat waves or powerful cyclones.

    mantle Noun

    middle layer of the Earth, made of mostly solid rock.

    Encyclopedic Entry: mantle
    mean Noun

    mathematical value between the two extremes of a set of numbers. Also called the average.

    planet Noun

    large, spherical celestial body that regularly rotates around a star.

    Encyclopedic Entry: planet
    solar system Noun

    the sun and the planets, asteroids, comets, and other bodies that orbit around it.

    space probe Noun

    set of scientific instruments and tools launched from Earth to study the atmosphere and composition of space and other planets, moons, or celestial bodies.

    unmanned Adjective

    lacking the physical presence of a person.

    weather Noun

    state of the atmosphere, including temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, humidity, precipitation, and cloudiness.

    Encyclopedic Entry: weather

    For Further Exploration

    Websites

Funder

Lockheed Martin