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The Best of the Solar System
Teaching Tips - Detailed Lesson Plan
Part I. Observing Images
The surface appears to be solid. There are many dark, circular areas of different sizes on the surface. They look like craters. The sides around the craters seem to be higher and brighter than the dark center. The areas around the craters look smoother than the rest of the surface. I think this image shows a close-up view of the surface of the Moon.
When they have finished the descriptions for all ten images, students check their work by peer review. Students read their descriptions to other students working with them to see if they can recognize the image. If their peers can not recognize the image, the student should add more details and revise the descriptions.
Part II. The Researcher's Description
Part III. Summary
When students have finished, they can browse the Exploring the Planets gallery (http://www.nasm.edu/GALLERIES/GAL207/gal207.html) or other on-line resources on the planets through links at the end of the assignment.
Use a combination of discussion participation, student worksheets and this paper and pencil test. Students may also be shown a set of new images of planets and moons, such as those available from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific Web site, and asked to categorize them.
Astronomers began using the telescope to study the sky in the 1600's. For over 300 years the telescope was the most important tool for astronomers. Galileo made some of the earliest discoveries with the telescope. However, Galileo did not invent the telescope; he was not even the first to use a telescope to study the sky. Galileo is known for his careful observations and the detailed records in his journal. Galileo sketched the features of the moon and even measured some of the mountains. He discovered the four large satellites of Jupiter. Galileo observed that Venus went through phases like the phases of the moon. Sunspots were discovered independently by Galileo, Fabricius and Scheiner. Around 1655 Christiaan Huygens discovered the rings of Saturn and Saturn's largest moon. In 1781 William Herschel discovered Uranus. Later he discovered two new satellites of Saturn and two satellites of Uranus. Leverrier and Adams calculated the approximate location of Neptune. Using these calculations, Galle and d'Arrest were able to confirm Neptune's existence in 1846. In 1930 Clyde Tombaugh confirmed the existence of Pluto. In 1950 Jan Oort described the Oort Cloud, the source of comets. Halley predicted the return one of the most famous comets, now called Comet Halley. Shoemaker and Levy discovered the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 that hit Jupiter in 1994. To learn more about telescope research, students can do library research about any of the people mentioned above.
In 1962 the first spacecraft (Mariner 2 to Venus) left Earth to explore the planets. Since then dozens of spacecraft have sent back important information about the planets and spectacular images. For this assignment students will study some of the best images of the Solar System. The collection contains images from all the planets, including Earth. The images depict the variety of features found on the planets and their satellites. Some of the features found in the images are volcanoes, lava flows, mountains, canyons, valleys, rocks, soil, dunes, and craters. Other images include clouds, atmospheres, belts, zones, and atmospheric storms, such as Jupiter's Great Red Spot. The images show the rings and moons of planets. See The Researcher's Description for more details about the images. By studying these features, researchers are able to learn about the origin of the Solar System and how the planets have changed over time.
The Researcher's Descriptions contain detailed information for each image. Students will be able to answer question 1 from the title. In question 2 students should indicate visual characteristics that will help them identify the planets and their special features in the future. For example students may note the smooth blue color of Neptune or the craters on Mercury.
Before going to the computers, assign two to three students to work together at each computer. Observations can be enhanced by student discussions, but students should make independent entries in their science journals. Let students know that Galileo is famous because he made careful observations and kept a detailed journal.
Remind students to leave room for Part II notes after the entry for each image. If students are not familiar with peer review, you may want to take some time before they go to the computers to discuss how to do it.
If there are not enough computers for the class, students could work on library research suggested in the background information. If time is limited, students can select fewer than ten images. If time allows, you may want students to sketch the image in their journals.
Extensions and Homework Assignments
Students could conduct additional research and prepare a report or presentation on one of the following topics:
The images can be downloaded. If software is available, students could use selected images to develop a slide show or on-line presentation.
Ties to Science Framework
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