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Solar System Exploration
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Strange New Planet
Topic: Ancient Astronomers / Modern Tools, Far Ranging Robots
Grade Level: 5-8
Body: Mars
Mission: Mariner 04 (Mars), Mariner 06 (Mars), Mariner 07 (Mars), Mariner 09 (Mars), Mars Global Surveyor (Mars), Mars Pathfinder (Mars), Viking 01 (Mars), Viking 02 (Mars)

Short Description: This activity demonstrates how planetary features are discovered through a sequence of observations, from naked eye, to telescopic, to fly-by, orbiting, and sample missions. Students make multi-sensory observations, gather data and simulate spacecraft missions.

Structure and Properties of Matter: Ion Propulsion Module
Topic: Far Ranging Robots
Grade Level: 9-12
Body: Asteroids, Dwarf Planets
Mission: Dawn (Dwarf Planets)

Short Description: This module is intended to engage students and the interested public in the propulsion technology that is necessary for Dawn to complete its mission. As students interact with this module, they will gain an understanding of charges and relative charge, momentum and frames of reference, ionization and plasma, how an ion propulsion system works, and they will experiment with designing an ion engine to determine optimal conditions.

Summit Up -- Comparing Volcanos on Mars and Earth
Topic: Volcanism in the Solar System
Grade Level: K-4, 5-8
Body: Earth, Mars
Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey (Mars), Mars Recon Orbiter (Mars)

Short Description: Summit Up is a 20 minute activity in which children make paper models to scale of the tallest volcanic mountains on Earth and Mars and discover a big difference between volcanoes on these two planets.

Tales of ... Dust Storms Seen on Mars
Topic: Our Evolving Understanding of Our Solar System
Grade Level: 9-12
Body: Mars
Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey (Mars)

Short Description: This activity details the weather on Mars from the earliest account in 1796 to 2001. This information can be used to introduce the idea that other planets experience seasons like Earth, as students learn how new data changes our understanding of Mars.

Terrabagga Activity Using a Magnetometer
Topic: Magnetospheres: Planetary Shields
Grade Level: 5-8
Body: Mercury, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune
Mission: Dawn (Dwarf Planets), Earth Science (Earth), InSight (Mars), MAVEN (Mars)

Short Description: This activity models real-world uses of a magnetometer instrument. Students will see how magnetic fields of the planets and moons are found.

The Changing Atmosphere of Pluto
Topic: Space Math, Windy Worlds: Gas Giants, Atmospheres and Weather
Grade Level: 9-12
Body: Dwarf Planets, Pluto
Mission: Hubble (Beyond Our Solar System)

Short Description: Based on a recent press release, students determine the aphelion and perihelion of Pluto's elliptical orbit using the properties of ellipses, then calculate the temperature of Pluto at these distances to estimate the thickness of Pluto's atmosphere and its changes during its orbit around the sun.

The Classroom Magnetometer
Topic: Magnetospheres: Planetary Shields
Grade Level: 5-8
Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

Short Description: Students build and operate a simple magnetometer using a soda bottle and a bar magnet, and use it to monitor changes in Earth's magnetic field.

The Dawn Mission -- Ion Rockets and Spiral Orbits
Topic: Far Ranging Robots, Space Math
Grade Level: 9-12
Body: Asteroids, Dwarf Planets
Mission: Dawn (Dwarf Planets)

Short Description: Students determine the shape of the trajectory taken by a spacecraft using a constant-thrust ion motor using differential and integral calculus for arc lengths.

The Earth-like Planet Gliese 518g
Topic: Discovering New Worlds, Space Math
Grade Level: K-4
Body: Beyond Our Solar System
Mission: Astrophysics (Beyond Our Solar System), Hubble (Beyond Our Solar System), Webb Space Telescope (Our Solar System)

Short Description: Students use data for the Gliese 581 planetary system to draw a scaled model of the locations and sizes of the discovered planets. They also identify the location and span of the Habitable Zone for this planetary system.

The Goldilocks Principle: A Model of Atmospheric Gases
Topic: Windy Worlds: Gas Giants, Atmospheres and Weather
Grade Level: 5-8
Body: Venus, Earth, Mars
Mission: Akatsuki (Venus), Earth Science (Earth), MAVEN (Mars), Venus Express (Venus)

Short Description: This activity introduces students to the atmospheric differences between the three "sister" planets in a graphic and hands-on way, using jelly beans or cotton balls to model different atmospheric gases. Students will use this understanding later as they begin to appreciate the scope and importance of the greenhouse effect on Earth.

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Last Updated: 21 Oct 2011