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Grayce P. Storey
Some of the major concerns of my students are as follows: 1) Is there any form of life in outer space? It is speculative that life exists beyond Earth. There is no scientific evidence to support such speculations otherwise. The chance of finding microorganisms on other planets however, can not be ruled out. 2) Travel through space. What the students are likely to discover is that the Earth is not the only planet in the Solar System. The major body in the Solar System is the Sun. The Solar System is made up of nine planets and their satellites, comets and countless minor bodies of meteorites and meteors. 3) Stellar detectors. Various telescopes and instruments are used to study the Sun and other stars. The telescope makes it possible to study many star groups. The telescope is most useful to show detail and take photographs of the night sky. 4) Life cycle of stars. Modern theory portrays that a star begins inside a nebula and contracts. Later it joins the main sequence. Eventually it will collapse into a condense white dwarf, a neutron star or a black hole, according to its mass.
This unit will be used as a tool to enhance the eighth grade Earth Science unit on astronomy. This unit will be spread out and dissected to fit what ever aspect in the astronomy unit requiring illuminating from data that I have gathered. In two of my classes this unit will be taught in its entirety. The time frame for teaching this unit is two weeks. Included in this unit are: vocabulary list, lesson plans, resource, field trip, student reading list, teacher reading list, and bibliography.
The students are looking for answers to their many questions and I am looking forward to answering them. The interchange will stimulate and enhance their knowledge of space.
I concur that space is a vast frontier which is far from being tamed. There is something new on the horizon to be explored. Technology has permitted man to get a quick glimpse into outer space but there is much more.
It is all speculative that alien life exists on Jupiter. There is no scientific evidence to support such speculations. Although the chance of finding microorganisms on Mars cannot be ruled out, the results of the Viking missions have proven totally negative in that regard. Scientifically speaking, it appears that there is no life in the Solar system except on Earth.
It is believed that solar systems are common in the Universe, and what happened to the Sun can also happen with other stars. Therefore, it is logical to assume that other planets that have a sun similar to ours are inhabited. In our Solar System, Earth is the only planet that is able to support advanced life forms. Earth lies at the center of the Sun’s ecosphere, the area around the Sun that is neither too hot nor too cold for life to exist. Mars is located on the outer edge of the ecosphere and Venus is on the inner edge.
There are countless stars similar to the Sun in our Galaxy. For example Ceti, the twentieth closest star to Earth. It has the same type of spectrum, temperature, and other properties as our sun. It is because of this data that there is search for life elsewhere in the Universe.
Astronomers believe that there is a black hole in the center of our galaxy. A black hole can be defined as very dense remains of a massive star that has collapsed to pinpoint size. The black hole’s gravitational pull is so strong that light and matter entering the hole cannot escape.
Astronomers believe that about 15 billion years ago, an explosion called the Big Bang created space, time, energy, and matter, and signified the beginning of the Universe.
The Milky Way Galaxy contains about 100,000 million stars of which our Sun is not a particularly distinguished number. In size and luminosity, the Sun is an average star. It as important to us because the Earth moves around it.
The Sun is 30,000 light years form the center of the Galaxy. A light year is defined as the distance a ray of light travels in one year equivalent to 5.886 million million miles. The entire Galaxy is constantly in a state of rotation and it takes the Sun 225 million years to complete one journey around the center.
The Sun is a great distance from its nearest stellar neighbor. The closest star is a red dwarf, Proxima Centauri. Sirius is also one of our neighbors. The closest star that has some similarity to our Sun is Epsilon Eridani and Tau Ceti. These stars are eleven light years from earth.
The major body of the Solar System is the Sun. The Solar System is made up of nine planets and their satellites, comets, and countless minor bodies of meteors and meteorites.
Mercury is the second smallest planet. It is smaller than Saturn’s and Jupiter’s largest moon. Mercury has no moons.
Mercury gets its name from the Roman god, fleet messenger. It is hard to spot Mercury because it is only visible during the twilight hours on some days, and it is always close to the Sun’s bright glare. Some telescopic observations of Mercury reveal that it appears to change its shape from day to day much like our Moon.
The surface of Mercury is heavily cratered due to the bombardment of countless meteorites and asteroids.
Mercury is almost airless because of the closeness of the Sun. The temperature can rise above 750 degrees fahrenheit during the day, which is hot enough to melt lead. During the long nights the temperature drops to -300 degrees fahrenheit, which is colder than the South pole.
Venus is also referred to as Earth’s sister planet although it is very different from Earth. Venus is covered by thick clouds of sulfuric acid. Below the cloud the atmosphere is carbon dioxide.
Venus is a scorching desert with temperatures of 900 degrees fahrenheit. It is the hottest planet in the Solar System. The atmosphere is credited mostly for this intense temperature. It traps the heat and does not allow it to escape, in a process that is known as the greenhouse effect.
From space Earth looks like a perfect ball. It is 27 miles wider at the equator than at the poles. Planet Earth is larger than Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Pluto.
Earth spins like a giant top. One complete spin is called a day. It tilts on one side as it travels around the Sun. Part of the year the northern half experience summer because it tilts toward the Sun while the southern half tilting away from the sun experiences winter. As the Earth continues to orbit the southern half will tilt toward the Sun and experience summer while the northern half experiences winter.
Encircling the Earth is a protective blanket of atmosphere. The atmosphere is made up of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and trace gases. Most of the Earth’s weather occurs in the layer of atmosphere closest to it, the troposphere.
Earth has one natural satellite, the Moon. We can only see that part of the Moon lit by the sunlight. The Moon is barren with no water, air, clouds, and no living things.
The Moon is covered with thousands of craters caused by bombardments of meteorites and asteroids. There are also mountains, hills, valleys, and flatlands. The gravity is 1/6 of that of the Earth.
Mars has craters, mountains, and valleys. The valleys are deep and longer than the Grand Canyon. The surface on Mars is made up of an orange dusty soil. The orange color is due to the presence of iron oxide in the soil. It is windy and cold there. The atmosphere is also thin.
Astronomers believe that when Mars was a young planet some water flowed there. Because of the properties of its atmosphere, water cannot exist there in a liquid form. In some unexplored area there may still be some frozen water and possibly life. However, from samples gathered by the Viking missions there is no evidence that life exist on Mars.
An outstanding featured on Jupiter is the giant wind storm called the Great Red Spot. It was sighted 300 years ago and has not changed position.
Jupiter has at least sixteen moons. The outer moons are small. The four larger moons are Io, which has exploding volcanoes that spur out liquid sulfur, it also undergoes metamorphism with each explosion. Europa is covered by a smooth ocean of gas. Ganymede is the largest and is larger than Mercury. Callisto is primarily ice with some rock on top of a deep frozen ocean.
Saturn’s rings are flat and are made of thousands small rings within rings. The rings are made of ice. The size of objects in the rings vary from the size of a house to that of a fingernail. The rings contain bits of rock and dust. The rings are less than three miles thick but extend to a distance of 170 miles across. No one knows for certain just how the rings were formed. It is speculative that they contain material left over from the formation of the planet.
Saturn has more than twenty moons, more than any in the Solar System. Titan is the largest moon. Titan is larger than Mercury and Pluto together. Saturn has six medium size moons and fourteen smaller moons.
Titan is the only moon in the Solar System known to have atmosphere. The atmosphere is mostly nitrogen gas that covers the moon surface with a thick haze.
Unlike other planets, Uranus lies on its side. Alternating poles when pointing toward the sun will have 42 years of dark.
Uranus has at least fifteen moons, five large and at least ten small. Uranus’s moon Miranda is quite unique in that it has huge canyons, deep grooves, ridges, and rope like markings on the surface.
The rings here are not visible except from a close probe. It has dark storms, giant hurricanes, and streaky white clouds of methane-ice. Frigid winds blow at a speed of 700 miles an hour. Atmospheric methane absorbs red light which is why the planet has a blue color. Haze high above the clouds causes a red rim.
As Voyager 11 went past Neptune it discovered the two bright outer rings. There are eight moons of which Triton is the largest. Triton is said to be colder than any object in the Solar System. Once a hot volcanic place, now Triton is a frozen imprint of that earlier life. The planet has the appearance of a rind of an orange.
Pluto is the coldest and smallest planet in the Solar System. It appears to be an ice ball of methane gas and water mixed with rock. It is surrounded with methane gas.
A comet is a dirty snowball. It has an icy core of water and gas mixed with bits of rock and metal, and covered with black dust.
When a comet approaches the Sun its surface material begins to evaporate. This exchange enables the gas to carry away some of the gas and dust particles that spread out around the nucleus in a large cloud called a coma. The sunlight causes the coma to glow. An average comet can create a coma 60 thousand miles across with a small amount of material spread very thin.
As the comet approaches the Sun, the pressure of the Sun and solar winds causes the gases of the coma to be swept away from the direction of the Sun. it is possible for the glow of a straight tail to extend millions of miles. Sometimes a second tail appears, this dust tail is usually slightly curved and shorter then the gas tail.
Most comets have an oval shaped orbit. Short period comets take less than 200 years to travel around the sun. Halley’s Comet is an example of a short period comet. Many short period comets have orbits that extends as far as Pluto. The comet with the shortest known period is Encke’s comet, which returns every 3.3 years.
There are two types of comet tails. The gaseous tail is usually straight and the dust tail is curved.
The mass of a comet is small compared to planets or satellites.
The tail of comets are mainly tenuous gases of hydrogen compounds, ammonia, methane and cyanogen. Many comets can be seen with the naked eye. They appear as a blurred patch of light and not all of them have tails.
A comet’s brightness is dependent upon its distance from the sun. The closer they are to the sun the brighter they appear. Some may fade away when they get close to the sun because their nucleus break apart.
In the past 200 years the comet IRA Araki-Alcock, has come closer to the Earth (2.9 million miles) than any other known comet.
There is a cloud of 100 billion comets that surrounds the Solar System.
Due to the high velocity of a streaking meteoroid, sometimes they plunge into Earth’s atmosphere. The friction caused by the streaking causes them to glow red. Once a meteor enters the upper atmosphere, friction causes it to become heated and break up, leaving a luminous streak called a meteor or a shooting star. In reality they are not stars at all. Stars are Suns much beyond our Solar System.
Meteors originated as meteoroids, which are bits of rock and metal. There are two types of meteoroids, showers and sporadic. Meteor showers occur when Earth passes through an old comet’s orbit and collides with some of the particles remaining from the comet’s nucleus. The 1966 meteor storm was the greatest recorded in history.
The meteors that do fall to the Earth are called meteorites. Meteorites have the appearance of a rock or a hunk of metal.
Unless someone sees them fall they are difficult to find. The stony meteorites are mostly chondrites. Chondrites contain small glassy globs. The meteorite that was found in Antarctica is very much like that brought back from the moon by the Apollo astronaut. Meteoroids that are mostly iron and nickel do not look like ordinary rock and are attracted to magnets. A third group of meteoroids, stony iron, are about half stone and half nickel iron.
Large space rocks are asteroids. Most of these rocks are in the asteroid belt circling the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. There are about three thousand known asteroids. Ceres, about 600 miles in diameter is the largest known asteroid. Pallas and Vesta are next in size.
The Soviets used a remote control machine, Lunokhod, to fly over the moon and take pictures to send back to Earth.
Probes are very useful in orbiting or landing on planets and their moons. They have flown to most planets and some are on their way out of the Solar System and into interstellar space. They radio back to Earth informative data and excellent pictures.
The mission of the Viking probes were to study Mars and search for signs of life. In 1976 probes entered the thin Martian atmosphere, soft landed and began to send back photographs and weather information for several years. The soil samples on Mars failed to indicate any signs of life.
The two Voyager space probes launched in 1977 were missioned to study distant planets. The results sent back included great photographs of planets and their moons. The planets visited were Jupiter in 1979, Saturn in 1981, Uranus in 1986, and Neptune in 1989. The Voyager spacecraft used the gravity of one planet which would fling the spacecraft in the fashion of a slingshot toward another planet.
Aboard the Voyagers were cameras, six computers, fuel tank to feed gas to small jets for stabilization, nuclear generator for the power supply, aerials to pick up natural radio waves from planets, boom carriers which are instruments to measure magnetic fields and large radio antennas to communicate with Earth.
The reflecting telescope and the refractor telescope are used to observe light rays from stars. The largest telescope in the world are the Keck Twin telescopes in Hawaii.
The Hubble Space Telescope, (HST) is an observatory placed in Earths orbit in 1 990. Churning and blurring in the atmosphere causes distortion in ground based observation. Distant objects appear fuzzy from Earth. The HST, outside the atmosphere sees the object much sharper. The HST can reach seven times farther into space than any ground observatory. It also provides ten times more detail. With the use of the HST, astronomers have made exciting new discoveries.
The infrared telescope is also used by astronomers to pick up infrared radiation given off by stars and planets. Several infrared telescope are perched high on a mountain in Hawaii, and on board satellites.
The Harvard classification system divides stars into ten main types, O, B,A, F, G, K, M, R, N, and S. Each type is further divided into subdivisions. O, R, N, and S are considered comparatively rare. Most stars are included in the B to M sequence.
In 1908 E. J. Hertzsprung drew up a diagram where he plotted the luminosity of stars against their spectral types while simultaneously Russell in the United States was conducting similar research. The outcome is both men were credited and the research is known as the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram or H-R diagrams. On this diagram most stars lie on the Main Sequence. At the left top the very luminous white stars are shown while to the bottom right the feeble red stars are shown.
In the universe the most abundant element is hydrogen, Normal stars contain primarily hydrogen. Inside a star is a tremendous amount of pressure with extremely high temperatures. The hydrogen nuclei combine to form nuclei of helium which yields energy. It is energy that keeps stars radiating.
Modern theory suggests that a star begins inside a nebula and contracts. The star will eventually join the main sequence at a point determined by its initial mass. If a star has a large mass, it joins the stars near the top left on the main sequence. Most of a stars brilliant career remains on the main sequence. When the hydrogen runs out, the core undergoes further contraction while the outside expands. This produces helium and the star becomes a giant. Eventually stars end up as white dwarfs, neutron stars or a black holes. Stars are said to be like people, they are born, they mature, they grow old, and they die.
One day our star will swell into a red giant, swallow up Mercury, and kill all life on Earth. The Sun will eventually shrink into a dim white dwarf about the size of Earth. It will cool down in time, and turn into a dense burned out amber.
While traveling through the Solar System, you will discover nine planets. Four small terrestrial rocky planets and four large gaseous jovian planets. The outer most planet is the smallest. Other bodies in the night sky are comets, asteroids, meteoroids and meteors, plus of course, stars and galaxies.
Without the aid of the telescope and probes astronomers would be at a loss as to the marvelous phenomena that takes place in our universe.
A star begins as a collapsing cloud of gas in interstellar space, nuclear fusion starts up in the interior which causes a fusion process transforming hydrogen into helium and a star is born..
Stars can be compared with humans in the sense that they are born, they mature, they grow old, and they die.
- 1. Nebulae
- 2. Supernova
- 3. Satellite
- 4. Probe
- 5. Milky Way
- 6. Solar system
- 7. Universe
- 8. Comet
- 9. HR Diagram
- 10. Meteor
- 11. Meteorite
- 12. Telescope
- 13. Astronomy
- 14. Luminosity
- 15. Neutron star
- 16. Density
- 17. Red dwarf
- 18. Helium
- 19 Cosmic year
- 20. Asteroid
- 21. Ecosphere
- 22. Metamorphism
- 23. Astronaut
- 24. Reflecting telescope
- 25. Refracting telescope
Objectives Upon completing this topic the students will be able to:
- 1. List all nine planets
- 2. Give two points of information about each planet
- 3. Identify the inner and outer planets
- 4. Discuss the other bodies in the solar system
- ____(comets, meteors, meteorites, asteroids, and satellites)
I. Terrestrial planets
II. Jovian planets
III. Stellar bodies
Home work: Make model of the Solar System
(use your creativity, due in two weeks)
Activity STAR DATE LOG . . . Amos (A-mouse) Takes A trip Rules
- 1. Amos must be launched in spaceship Viking, from Cape Canaveral, Florida
- 2. you must track his voyage in a log via Houston, Texas
- 3. tell all of her (his) encounters
- ____(use fantasy, comedy, be creative but stick close to the facts)
- 4. You must visit all the planets and tell what you find
- 5. Amos must survive the trip
- 6. The set down is to be in the California desert
- 7. Arrange an interview for Amos
- 8. An oral individual presentation must be given to the class
- 1. List the four inner planets in the Solar System
- 2. List the four gas planets
- 3. Describe a comet
- 4. Which planet has a red spot? What causes it?
Field Trip Arrange a field trip to the planetarium at Southern Connecticut State University (the class is to write an essay on what they saw)
OBJECTIVE After completing this topic the students will be able to explain the life cycle of a star
1. Nebulae 6. Dwarf 2. Supernova 7. Hydrogen 3. Density 8. Neutron star 4. Helium 9. Luminosity 5. Main sequence 10. HR diagram
I. Birth of a star
II. Young star
III. Middle age star
IV. HR diagram
Pre test/ Post test
match column A with column B
A B ——nebulae a. young star, middle age star, old star ——luminosity b. gas in a star ——phases in life of a star c. a very compact star ——supernova d. a vast cloud of gas and dust ——neutron star e. a plot of temperature or luminosity of stars ——hydrogen f. brightness of stars ——HR diagram g. a giant exploding star
Homework Spelling test (vocabulary words)
Activity MEDIA CENTER:
The class must view the CD Rom, “Outer Space”, and write a critique.
- 1. How did you perceive space prior to watching the CD Rom?
- 2. How do feel about space now that you have seen the CD Rom?
- 3. What did you already know about space?
- 4. What did you learn from the CD Rom, be specific?
- 5. Do you feel that you may one day want to become an astronaut and travel in space? Elaborate.
OBJECTIVE After completing this topic the students will be able to:
- 1. name the three types of telescopes used to study stars
- 2. explain the importance of each telescope
- 3. Explain the importance of the two types of probes
1. Lunar 4. Infrared probe 2. Probe 5. Reflecting telescope 3. Planetary probe 6. Refracting telescope
I. Infrared telescope
II. Refracting telescope
III. Reflecting telescope
IV. Probes (lunar, planetary)
V. Define the vocabulary words in sentences
Homework Write a report on one of the three types of telescopes. Star gazing . . . .Use a sky map and find five constellations and draw them . . . .
- 1. Barrett, Norman, “Visual Guides Space Machines,” Franklin Watts, New York 1994.
- 2. Burrows, William E., “Mission to Deep Space,” WH Freeman and Company, New York 1993.
- 3. Lambert, David, “New View Stars and Planets,” Raintree SteckVaughn Publishers, Austin, Texas 1994. A spectacular layer by layer look through Earth’s atmosphere past the moon, the planets, the sun, the Milky Way, out from our galaxy, and onward past black holes and quasars.
- 4. Mullane, Mike R. Astronaut, Lift Off! An Astronaut Dream, Silver Burdett Press, Parsippany, New Jersey 1995.
- 5. Pasuchoff, Jay M. And Menzel, Donald H., Peterson Field Guide, Stars and Planets third edition ed. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York 1992. A field guide to stars and planets with monthly star maps and atlas charts.
- 6. Mohl, Robert and Nancy, Margo. “Planetary Taxi”. Visual Almanac Series, Voyager Pub. New York. An interesting rump through the solar system. This is a multi-platform CD Rom for windows and Macintosh
- 7. Simon, Seymour, “Our Solar System,” Morrow Jonior Book, New York 1992. Describes the origin and characteristics of the sun, planets, moon, asteroids, and comets.
- 1. Bahcall, J.N. and L. Spitzes, Jr. 1982 “The Space Telescope,” Scientific American, July, 40-51
- 2. Boer, KS de and B.D. Savage. 1982 “The Coronas of Galaxies,” Scientific American, August, 54-62. Satellite observations indicate that the disks of ours and other spiral galaxies are surrounded by enormous envelopes of hot gas.
- 3. Boss, A.P. 1985. “Collapse and Formation of Stars”. Scientific American, January, 40-45. Computer modeling of star formation.
- 4. Brandt, J.C. and M.B. Niedner, Jr 1986 “the Structure of Comet Tails”. Scientific American, January, 48-56
- 5. Dicus, DA. Et al 1983. “The Future of the Universe”. Scientific American, March, 90-101, A forecast for the expanding Universe through the year 10-100
- 6. Gore, R. 1983 “The Once an Future Universe”. National Geographic, June, 704-49. A well illustrated summary of our current understanding of the structure and evolution of stars, nebulae, galaxies, quasars,and the Universe, including brief descriptions of some of the modern instruments used in the study of these objects.
- 7. Gehrels, T. 1985. “Asteroids and comets”. Physics Today, February, 32-41.
- 8. Hawkins, S.W. 1984. “The Edge of Spacetime”. American Scientist, July-August, 355-59. This article written by the most imaginative cosmologist of our time, addresses the question, what happened at the beginning of the expansion of the Universe.
- 9. Osmer, P.S. 1982 “Quasars as Probes of Distant and Early Universe.” Scientific American, February, 126-38.
- 10. South, A.H. and P.J. Steinhardt. 1984. “The Inflationary Universe.” Scientific American, May, 116-28.
- 11. Turner, E.L. 1988. “Gravitational Lenses”. Scientific American, July, 54-60.
- 12. Weaver, K.F. 1986. “Meteorites: Invader From Space”. National Geographic, September, 390-418.
- 13. Wheeler, J.C., and K. Nomoto. 1985. “How Stars Explode”. American Scientist, May-June, 240-47. Two classes of supernovae are observed: Type I and Type II.
- 14. Redshift 2: “Explore Your Universe”. Maris Multimedia, 100 Smith Ranch Rood, Suite 301, San Rafael, California 94903, 1995. This is a multi-platform CD Rom for windows and Macintosh.
- 1. Boss, A.P. 1985. “Collapse and Formation of Stars”. Scientific American, January, 4045. Computer modeling of star formation.
- 2. Brandt, J.C. And M.B. Neider, Jr. 1986. “The Structure of Comet Tails”. Scientific American, January 48-56.
- 3. Gore, R. 1985. “The Once and Future Universe”. National Geographic, June, 704-49. A well illustrated summary of our current understanding of the structure and evolution of stars, nebulae, galaxies, quasars, and the Universe, including brief descriptions of some of the modern instruments used in the study of these objects.
- 4. Lambert, David, “New View Stars and Planets”. Raintree Steck-Vaughn Publishers, Austin, Texas, 1994. A spectacular layer by layer look through Earth’s atmosphere past the moon, the planets, the sun, the Milky Way, out from our galaxy, and onward past black holes and quasars.
- 5. Rasuchoff, Joy M. and Menzel, Donald H., “Peterson Field Guide, Stars and Planets.” 3rd edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 1992. A field guide to stars and planets with monthly star maps and atlas charts.
- 6. Simon, Seymour, “Our Solar System”. Morrow Junior books, New York, 1992. Describes the origin and characteristics of the sun, planets, moon, asteroids, and comets.
- 7. Redshift 2; “Explore Your Universe”. Marris Multimedia, 100 Smith Ranch Road, Suite 301, San Rafael, California, 1995. This is a multi-platform CD Rom for windows and Macintosh.
Contents of 1996 Volume VI | Directory of Volumes | Index | Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute