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The Pull of the Planets

The Pull of the Planets

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Short Description: Students model the gravitational fields of planets on a flexible surface. Children place and move balls of different sizes and densities on a plastic sheet to develop a mental picture of how the mass of an object influences how much affect it has on the surrounding space.

Topic: Gravity: It's What Keeps Us Together

Grade Level: 5-8

Body: Our Solar System, Jupiter

Mission: Juno (Jupiter)

Science Education Standards:


By the end of the 5th grade, students should know that: The Earth's gravity pulls any object on or near the Earth toward it without touching it. 4G/E1

By the end of the 8th grade, students should know that: Every object exerts gravitational force on every other object. The force depends on how much mass the objects have and on how far apart they are. The force is hard to detect unless at least one of the objects has a lot of mass. 4G/M1

The sun's gravitational pull holds the Earth and other planets in their orbits, just as the planets' gravitational pull keeps their moons in orbit around them. 4G/M2

National Science Education Standards

Grades 5-8
As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of Motions and Forces
If more than one force acts on an objects along a straight lines, then the forces will reinforce and cancel one another, depending on their direction and magnitude. Unbalanced forces will cause changes in the speed or direction of an object's motion.

Earth in the Solar System
Most objects in the solar system are in regular and predictable motion.
Gravity is the force that keeps plants in orbit around the sun and governs the rest of the motion in the solar system.

Source: Lunar and Planetary Institute

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Last Updated: 1 Jul 2014