Check out a new device that High Point University students have designed to help astronauts study asteroids.
Alignment to NC Essential Standards
- 6.E.1.2 — Explain why Earth sustains life while other planets do not based on their properties (including types of surface, atmosphere and gravitational force) and proximity to the Sun.
- Students will compare and contrast the atmosphere, distance from the sun and gravitational pull of each of the solar system’s eight planets.
- Students will infer why Earth sustains life while other planets in the solar system do not.
- Students will describe two ways in which studying asteroids helps inform scientists about the history of Earth and its solar system.
- Gravitational pull
Students will view the PBS LearningMedia video A Visit to Asteroid Vista.
- Why do scientists believe that Vesta had volcanoes early in its history?
- Why do you think Vesta’s gravitational pull is different across its surface?
- What are some features on Earth that are similar to those on Vesta?
- Why is Vesta considered a protoplanet rather than an asteroid?
- What role did Jupiter play in the formation of Vesta?
Students will view and/or listen to the following short lessons, to gather information about the atmosphere and characteristics of the Solar System and its major components.
- Mercury Facts
- Mercury: Did You Know?
- Venus Facts
- Venus: Did You Know?
- Earth Facts
- Earth: Did You Know?
- Mars Facts
- Mars: Did You Know?
- Jupiter Facts
- Jupiter: Did You Know?
- Saturn Facts
- Saturn: Did You Know?
- Uranus Facts
- Uranus: Did You Know?
- Neptune Facts
- Neptune: Did You Know?
After completing the short lessons, students will answer the following questions:
- Why can’t Mercury sustain human life?
- Is Mercury’s gravitational pull greater or less than that of Earth?
- What caused the holes in Mercury’s surface?
- Why is Venus known as Earth’s twin?
- Why does the surface of Venus get so hot?
- What two gases compose Earth’s atmosphere?
- What is responsible for Earth’s seasons?
- What is the Earth’s average distance from the sun?
- What is responsible for Mars’s red color?
- What do scientists believe is the history of Mars’s two moons?
- Does Mars or Earth have a longer day? (hint: check rotation periods for each planet)
- What is Jupiter’s atmosphere composed of?
- Is Jupiter’s gravitational pull greater or less than that of Earth?
- What composes Saturn’s rings, and how were those rings formed?
- How long does it take Saturn to revolve around the sun?
- What three gases compose Uranus’s atmosphere?
- How much larger than Earth is Uranus?
- Why is Neptune called “the blue planet”?
- How is Triton different from Neptune’s other moons?
Students will view the video Space Scoop.
- Describe the device designed by the High Point University students. What is its purpose?
- Why do NASA guidelines call for the device to be 15 pounds or lighter?
- One problem facing the High Point University students was designing a way for astronauts to manipulate the device while wearing bulky spacesuits. How did the students solve this issue?
- Why can studying the rocks of an asteroid help inform scientists about the history of the solar system?
Using the above websites, students will compose a chart that compares the atmospheres, gravitational pulls and distances from the sun of all eight planets in the solar system. At the bottom of the chart, students will write a five-sentence paragraph explaining why Earth is the only planet in the solar system that can sustain human life.