Our Solar System

By Jeannie Sawyer

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materials are included under the fair use exemption of the U.S. Copyright Law and have been prepared according to the educational fair use guidelines.

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The students will know what a solar system is. The students will have an understanding on how the Solar system was formed. They will know how big the solar system is. They will discover how the solar system is arranged.

What is the Solar System?
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The solar system consists of: One central star, the Sun Nine Planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto

How is our solar system set up?
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It is set up into two parts: The inner system, those closest to the sun; contain Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. The outer system contains Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. The inner planets are separated from the outer planets by the Asteroid belt

How did the solar system form?

The planets, asteroids and comets in the solar system are loose particles left over from the formation of the sun. Gas and dust in the disc spiraled gradually in to the center, where it accumulated to form the Sun. These dust particles stuck together to make clumps, then clumps stuck together to make rocks, then rocks collided to make planets.

The sun is the collapsed core of an interstellar gas cloud, and the planets, asteroids and comets are small lumps of dust which stayed in orbit instead of spiraling into the Sun. The inner planets formed first and were dragged by the spiraling gas, which is why they are closest to the sun. The outer planets have rocky cores, but their outer layers are

What is the asteroid belt? The asteroid belt is a

zone between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.  It is believed that the asteroids in the asteroid belt never formed a planet because of the gravity of nearby Jupiter kept pulling them apart.  Today, millions of asteroids probably inhabit the asteroid belt, with many more scattered throughout the solar system.

Where do comets come  from?

Comets are solar system leftovers: they are often described as “dirty snowballs,” lumps of frozen gas and dust. Comets are almost invisible, except when they are near the sun’s heat. Comets become visible when ice changed into gas by the sun’s heat. The gas carries dust, and this dust forms the comet’s head and tail. Meteor showers sometimes occur when the Earth passes through a comet’s orbit.

How big is the solar system?
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There are no physical boundaries in space. The solar system from the Sun out to Pluto which is the farthest planet orbiting it, is measured in astronomical units of length. One astronomical unit equals the distance from Earth to the Sun: 93 million miles.


Can you see any planets with the “naked eye”?

The ancient civilizations were able to discover Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn by unaided eye. Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto were all discovered using a telescope.

Can the Hubble Space Telescope take pictures of all the planets in our solar system?

Mercury and Earth are the only two planets that the Hubble Space Telescope has not observed for astronomical purposes. Mercury is too close to the Sun, which is too bright for the Hubble to look at.

Can you view the solar system?
You don’t need your own Voyager to see the solar system.  You can see much of it from your own back yard.  You can look at the stars, planets, and more out there by eye, binoculars, or telescope, inexpensively  Refer to Sky & Telescope or another magazine for date positions or check several Web sites that show planetary positions, and the sky is

Activity: Size and Distances of Planets
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Have the student work in pairs; talk about the planet distances and sizes compared to a scale model. The distances to the planets and the sizes of the planets are shown on the same scale, which is 1 inch = 12,000 miles. At this scale, Jupiter is 1,111 yards from the Sun and is represented by a soccer ball of diameter about 7.33 inches. Pluto is 4.73 miles away, and thus cannot be shown in a typical school yard, but its size can be represented by a small BB. At this scale, the Sun is represented as a 6-ft diameter medicine ball, and the star Betelgeuse (in constellation Orion) would be a ball about 1 mile in diameter. Saturn is 1.2 miles away, Uranus is 1.7 miles away, Neptune is 4.73 miles. Bonus question-how far is Betelgeuse?

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http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/StarChild/shadow http://www.tcsn.net/afiner/soar.htm http://amazing-space.stsci.edu/trading.cgi http://www.nasm.edu.ceps/SIMAGES/lesson.htm http://www.anu.edu.au/Physics/nineplanets/see http://www.tcsn.net/afiner/solar.htm http://tes.asu.edu/EDUCATION/activities/9 3_94guide/cg93_94_solar_syst_scale.html

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