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Goldilocks and the Three Planets

Goldilocks and the Three Planets

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Short Description: Students determine what some of Earth, Venus and Mars' atmosphere is composed of and then mathematically compare the amount of the greenhouse gas, CO2, on the planets Venus, Earth and Mars in order to determine which has the most.

Topic: Windy Worlds: Gas Giants, Atmospheres and Weather

Grade Level: 5-8

Body: Venus, Earth, Mars

Mission: Akatsuki (Venus), MAVEN (Mars), Venus Express (Venus)

Science Education Standards:


By the end of the 5th grade, students should know that:
  • Air is a material that surrounds us and takes up space and whose movement we feel as wind. 4B/E4
  • The weather is always changing and can be described by measurable quantities such as temperature, wind direction and speed, and precipitation. Large masses of air with certain properties move across the surface of the earth. The movement and interaction of these air masses is used to forecast the weather. 4B/E5 (NSES)

By the end of the 8th grade, students should know that:

  • Nine planets of very different size, composition, and surface features move around the sun in nearly circular orbits. Some planets have a variety of moons and even flat rings of rock and ice particles orbiting around them. Some of these planets and moons show evidence of geologic activity. The earth is orbited by one moon, many artificial satellites, and debris. 4A/M3
  • The earth is mostly rock. Three-fourths of the earth's surface is covered by a relatively thin layer of water (some of it frozen), and the entire planet is surrounded by a relatively thin layer of air. 4B/M2ab
  • The earth has a variety of climates, defined by average temperature, precipitation, humidity, air pressure, and wind, over time in a particular place. 4B/M14
  • The atmosphere is a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and trace amounts of water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases. 4B/M15 (NSES)

National Science Education Standards

Grades 5-8
Structure of the Earth System
  • The atmosphere is a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and trace gases that include water vapor. The atmosphere has different properties at different elevations.
  • Clouds, formed by the condensation of water vapor, affect weather and climate.
  • Global patterns of atmospheric movement influence local weather. Oceans have a major effect on climate, because water in the oceans holds a large amount of heat.
Earth in the Solar System
  • The earth is the third planet from the sun in a system that includes the moon, the sun, eight other planets and their moons, and smaller objects, such as asteroids and comets. The sun, an average star, is the central and largest body in the solar system.

Source: Laboratory for Space and Atmospheric Physics

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Last Updated: 6 Mar 2014