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SOLAR SYSTEM WORKS
A Spin Around the Solar System Series
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Table of Contents
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
Links to Curriculum Standards . . . . . . . .1
Summary of the Program . . . . . . . . . . . .1
Vocabulary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2
Student Objectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
Instructional Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
Student Preparation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
Introducing the Program . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
Follow-Up Activities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
Extended Learning Activities . . . . . . . . .6
Internet Sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
Reference Materials/Bibliography . . . . . .7
Answer Key . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7
Script of Narration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
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HOW THE SOLAR SYSTEM WORKS
from A Spin Around the Solar System Series
Viewing Time: 15 minutes with a three-minute,
ten-question, Video Quiz
This in-depth series covers a wide range of essential mat-ters about the solar system. Such topics as planet forma-tion, gravity, nuclear fusion, and the Big Bang theory arepresented concisely with the help of specially designedgraphics and animations. Each of the eight shows can bepresented as a free-standing lesson on its own, but theshows also work together to reinforce important conceptsand to add breadth and depth to a student’s cumulativeknowledge.
LINKS TO CURRICULUM STANDARDS
This lesson correlates to the following standards, outlinedby the National Science Education Standards, for stu-dents in grades 5-8. Use individual state standard out-lines to specify correlations to your state's guidelines.
Earth & Space Science (Content Standard D)• Gravity and inertia• Energy source is the sun• Earth in the solar system
SUMMARY OF THE PROGRAM
This program explains the basic concepts of the solarsystem. It begins by explaining that the sun was formedby a contracting nebula at the edge of the Milky WayGalaxy. As the nebula contracted, it began to condense.
The force of gravity, along with condensation, pulled thenebula gas into a tight ball. Due to the heat and frictioninside, nuclear reactions created light. Some gasesescaped gravity and formed small swirling clouds. Theseclouds eventually became the planets of the solar system.
One of the laws of gravity states that bigger objects havestronger gravity. Therefore, since the sun has 99.8% of
the solar system's total mass, it is the powerful center thatholds the planets. A second force is inertia, the force thatkeeps things moving unless another force slows it downor changes its direction. Inertia carries planets on astraight line out into space from the sun. Inertia alsokeeps the planets moving on their axis. Gravity holds theplanets in. These two forces are in balance with eachother and the planets go around the sun perpetually.
The sun is a medium-sized star mostly made of hydrogen.
It produces light and heat through nuclear fusion. Heliumis made inside of the sun by hydrogen atoms fusingtogether, releasing the energy of heat and light.
There are four inner Rocky Planets: Mercury, Venus,Earth, and Mars. These have crusts made of rock. Theyare dense, weighing more than the four Gas Giants.
These gas giants lie beyond Mars. These are enormousballs of gas, made from gases such as hydrogen, helium,and methane. Their centers may be made of frozengases, and they are covered with poisoness at-mos-pheres. Each gas giant planet has moons, rings, or both.
Pluto is not only the smallest planet, but also the farthestfrom the sun. It is neither a rocky planet nor a gas giant.
The solar system includes other qualities than just plan-ets. The video highlights Kuiper Belt objects, asteroids,comets, the Oort Cloud, and the Heliopause.
Notes: • Underlined words are identified vocabulary words toenhance student understanding.
• This program is an excellent tool to use at the onset ofyour Solar System unit.
After viewing the program and participating in the follow-up activities, students should be able to.
• Define key terminology in context.
• Explain the difference between gas giants and rockyplanets by describing physical attributes.
• Describe the force of gravity and inertia on the solar sys-tem.
• Explain the purpose of the sun: light, heat, and gravity.
• Identify at least one additional quality of the solar sys-tem.
Before presenting this lesson to your students, we sug-gest that you preview the program, review the guide, andthe accompanying blackline master activities in order tofamiliarize yourself with their content.
As you review the materials presented in this guide, youmay find it necessary to make some changes, additionsor deletions to meet the specific needs of your class. Weencourage you to do so; for only by tailoring this programto your class will they obtain the maximum instructionalbenefits afforded by the materials.
An optional pre-test is provided on Blackline Master 2,
. This will help you determine the
level of student comprehension prior to participating in
this lesson. An answer key begins on page 7.
This program concludes with a ten-question Video Quiz,
which may be used to gauge student comprehension
immediately after the presentation of the video.Blackline Master 3, Video Quiz
, provides students with
a printed copy of the questions and a list from which to
choose correct answers.
You may want the students to view the vocabulary words
addressed in the program prior to showing the video.
This may be accomplished by implementing a Word
Splash, Blackline Master 1
. A Word Splash
is an active
learning activity that introduces the students to vocabu-
lary words to which they will be exposed in the program.
By doing this activity, students are given the chance to
show what words they know well, and to become aware
of the words they need to find meaning. This is a good
pre- and post-activity. It excites the students and gets
them thinking. Writing all of the vocabulary words on an
overhead does this (see Blackline Master 1
) or individu-
ally on pieces of paper. Have students create sentences
using as many words as possible. This may be done indi-
vidually, in partners, or in small groups. Have the students
share their sentences and post them. By exposing the
students to vocabulary prior to viewing the program, stu-
dents will be prepared to listen for these words.
Additionally, they will want to find the correct meaning.
• Word Splash
may be done at the conclusion of the
entire lesson, to compare learning accomplished by stu-
INTRODUCING THE PROGRAM
Ask students to share what they know about the scientif-
ic explanation of how the solar system was born. Tell
them that they will complete Blackline Master 2,
on this concept prior to viewing the
program. Explain that they are not expected to get all
answers correct, but they are expected to try their best.
• Present the program
. The viewing time, including the
quiz, is 18 minutes long.
The following Blackline Activity Master sheets are includ-ed with this guide. They correlate with the learning objec-
tives outlined on page 3 of this guide. You may replicateand distribute them as needed.
Following the program, students may have additionalquestions. The facilitator may want to hold off questionsuntil follow-up activities are completed. They may writethese answers down and the class may review them priorto the post-test. By doing so, the students may find theanswers on their own.
As a class, you may wish to discuss questions that
appear on Blackline Master 4, Discussion Questions
These questions should be copied onto an overhead or
distributed to students, in order to meet the needs of your
In order to enforce vocabulary, review words from Word
Splash (Blackline Master 1, Word Splash
) as a class.
Students can then fill out Blackline Master 5, Cloze
. This activity also covers the concepts of gravity
To help students identify the difference between Gas
Giants and Rocky Planets, have students completeBlackline Master 6, Venn Diagram
. Students can start
by filling out the Venn Diagram individually. Once the stu-
dents have done as much as possible on their own, have
students put Two Heads Together as pairs. This active
learning strategy allows students to pair up and teach one
another what they know, and provides the opportunity to
add to their own Venn Diagram. This can be done again
by putting Four Heads Together and so on.
To practice the concept of the purpose of the sun, com-
plete Blackline Master 7, The Power of the Sun
To conclude your study of A Spin in the Solar System:
How the Solar System Works
use Blackline Master 8,
. This should be given to your students after
viewing the program and completing additional activities
to assess their knowledge of the topic.
EXTENDED LEARNING ACTIVITIES
SCIENCE EXTENSIONS: Students can research differ-ent meteorites that have impacted planets and moons.
ART CONNECTION: Draw a model of the solar systemincluding the following: nine planets, sun, Kuiper Belt, andthe Heliopause.
MATH CONNECTION: Have students calculate the dis-tance from the sun to each planet. They should figurehow long it would take to drive to any given planet. As aclass, decide on the speed vehicles should travel. Withthis information, they could also make a scale drawing ofthe solar system.
CREATIVE WRITING CONNECTION: Students act asreporters and write an article on how the sun was createdor a planet was formed, from a scientific point of view.
Make a classroom newspaper or magazine.
SOCIAL STUDIES CONNECTION: Research cosmolo-gists from the United States and other countries. Havestudents make a classroom timeline on their findings.
TECHNOLOGY CONNECTION: Have students createquestions based on the topics covered in this program.
Type the list of questions for the entire class. Have thestudents research using the Internet for answers to thequestions. It may help if you assign students to specificquestions. Have a sharing session at the conclusion ofclass.
http://quest.arc.nasa.gov (Galileo)http://mpf.www.jpl.nasa.gov (Mars Pathfinder)http://encke.jpl.nasa.gov (comets)http://www.nsta.org/ (National Science Teachers’Association)http://www.nasa.gov (NASA)http://www.sln.org/ (Science Learning Network)
The Origin Of The Universe. Andres L. Ruiz. SterlingPublishing Co., INC., NY. 1996. 0-8069-9744-3.
Exploring The Reaches of the Solar System. RaySpangenburg & Diane Moser. Fact on File, NY, Oxford,Sydney. 1990. 0-8160-1850-2.
Merlin's Tour of the Universe. Neil de Grasse Tyson.
Doubleday, NY. 1989. 0-385-48835-1.
Galaxies. Seymour Simon. Morrow Jr. Books, NY.
Comets and Meteor Showers. Paul Sipiera. Children'sPress: A Division of Grolier, NY, London, Hong Kong,Sydney, and Danburg, Connecticut. 1997. 0516-20330-4.
Blackline Master 1, Word Splash
Answers to the Word Splash will vary. When you use it
before viewing the program, do not expect correct con-
nections. After viewing the program and completing the
Backline Masters, expect correct connections.
Blackline Master 2, Anticipation Guide
1. T2. F, It becomes smaller.
3. T4. T5. F, Inertia keeps things moving.
6. T7. F, hydrogen8. T9. F, rocky
10. F, earth11. F, Pluto is considered neither a Gas Giant nor a Rocky
12. T13. T14. F, There are more galaxies than just the Milky Way.
15. TBlackline Master 3, Video Quiz
Blackline Maser 4, Discussion Questions
1. To investigate how the world was formed. An astrolo-
gist studies star formations, whereas a cosmologist stud-
ies how the world was formed.
2. Yes, because new discoveries are made every day,
which can change their current report.
3. A nebula is a large space cloud of gas and dust.
4. Gravity is the force that pulls one object to another.
Answers will vary for the second part of this question.
5. Inertia keeps things moving in a certain direction. For
example, if you roll a bowling ball down a street and noth-
ing gets in its way, it will keep rolling. Answers will vary for
the second part of this question.
6. The nebula contracted, so the particles and dust
became dense. Gravity helped pulled these particles and
dust into clumps. Nuclear reactions occurred within the
ball, which created heat and light.
7. When the sun was forming, there were rings around it.
Not every bit of the nebula's particles and dust were
pulled into the sun. These leftovers formed small swirling
clouds, which condensed as well. These new masses
were too small to cause nuclear fusion, so they became
8. Gravity and inertia are balanced with one another.
Gravity keeps the planets pulled towards the sun and
inertia tries to carry them in a straight line out into space.
9. Gas Giants are made of gases poisonous to humans.
Neither humans nor plant life could survive.
10. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus,
Neptune, and Pluto
11. Mars is so close. It would take so many years to study
12. Pluto is made of ice, rock, and metal. Therefore, it
does not fit either category.
14. Comets mostly stay far beyond Pluto in the OortCloud. Comets we see are tugged from the Oort Cloudby gravity from Neptune and thrown towards the sun andEarth.
15. Answers may vary.
Blackline Master, Cloze Activity
Blackline Master 6, Venn Diagram
Answers will vary. Encourage students to share ideas
and add to their Venn Diagram. Make sure that they have
the correct qualities under each type of planet.
Blackline Master 7, The Power of the Sun
The students' answers will vary. Highlight scientific
responses, such as photosynthesis, human existence,
Blackline Master 8, Post-Test
Script of Narration
A Spin Around the Solar System:
How The Solar System Works
What do we know about the solar system, this group ofnine planets that circle the sun? We know things move…they spin, circle, and speed through space. We knowthey grow, shrink, crash and explode. We think we knowhow old the solar system is, and maybe even how itformed. We also understand some of the forces that keepthe solar system working.
What's in the solar system? • The sun. Solar means sun.
• Nine planets, including Earth, that circle the sun.
• More than 65 moons and a number of rings that circlefour of the planets.
• Countless asteroids, which are small chunks of rock andmetal that circle the sun like tiny planets• Comets, which are ice balls mixed with rock and metaldust. We see them once in a while.
• Waves of energy and particles, and unseen forces suchas gravity that help make things work.
• A variety of space gases and dusts.
• And space - lots of space. Our solar system stretchesacross trillions of miles or kilometers of space.
So our solar system has lots of different parts. They aretied together by the sun's gravity.
Cosmologists, scientists who investigate how the worldformed, think the solar system started developing aboutfour and a half billion years ago near the edge of a groupof billions of stars called the Milky Way galaxy. Here, alarge space cloud of gas and dust called a nebula, beganswirling and contracting, to become smaller and tighter.
As the nebula contracted, particles of dust and gas con-densed, like drops of rain in a thundercloud. Soon anoth-er force helped draw the particles together into clumps -gravity.
Gravity is an unseen force that pulls one object to anoth-er. On Earth, for example, gravity pulls an apple that fallsfrom a tree to the ground. While the solar system formed,for hundreds of millions of years condensation and gravi-ty pulled nebula gas and dust into an ever tighteningsphere.
When the sphere was more than a million times largerthan our Earth, the heat and pressure inside started achain of nuclear reactions. A new star, our sun, began toshine.
Some leftover gas and dust remained nearby, forming
small swirling clouds that circled the sun.
Eventually these clouds packed together, in much thesame way as they had for the sun. The new masses, toosmall to cause nuclear fusion, became the planets of oursolar system.
Gravity not only helped build the solar system by pullinggas, dust and other space debris into spheres, gravitykeeps it together. Without gravity planets would fly awayfrom the sun.
One law of gravity states that bigger objects havestronger pull. The sun has 99% of the solar system's totalmass. Its powerful gravity holds the planets in orbit.
But if gravity were the only force at work on the planets,the planets would fall to the sun, like an apple falling tothe ground.
A second force called inertia prevents this. Inertia keepsthings moving in certain ways. For example, a ball youthrow in a straight line will continue straight because ofinertia. In space, inertia will carry a spacecraft in a straightline forever, unless another force such as gravity or rock-et engine thrust changes its direction.
Inertia tries to move planets in a straight line out intospace, away from the sun, but gravity holds them in.
Fortunately for each of the nine planets, gravity and iner-tia are in balance with each other, and the planets goround and round the sun.
The planets also spin round and round their axis. Inertiahelps keep spinning objects spinning. Our planets haveprobably been spinning ever since they formed from aspinning nebula that was on a spinning galaxy.
Let's look a little closer at the sun. Well, not directly at it,because that can cause blindness. Our sun is a medium-sized star made mostly of hydrogen gas, like the nebulathat formed it.
The sun produces heat and light through nuclear fusion.
Deep inside the sun, immense heat and pressure causethe hydrogen atoms to collide so hard they weld, or fuse,together. The fused hydrogen atoms make a different kindof gas - helium.
The new helium atom, however, weighs less than the twohydrogen atoms before fusion. What happens to themissing hydrogen matter? It changes into energy, anamazing amount of energy. We can see and feel some ofthe light and heat energy on earth, 93 million miles (148million kilometers) away.
The planets can be divided into three groups. First, thereare four inner rocky planets; second, four outer gasgiants; and third, and farthest from the sun, Pluto. Pluto isneither a Rocky nor a Gas planet. It's one of a number ofsmall pieces of the solar system such as comets andasteroids that remain somewhat of a puzzle.
Lets turn to the inner rocky planets for a moment. Theseinclude Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. All the rockyplanets are small and have crusts of rock. These planetsare also denser than the outer planets. That is, a bucket-ful of a rocky planet weighs more than a bucketful of a gasplanet.
The rocky planets all appear earthlike, so they are some-times called the terrestrials. Terrestrial means earth.
Mars is the farthest rocky planet from the sun. Mars mighteven have or at one time had microscopic life similar toEarth's.
Beyond Mars lie the four gas giants. These are enormousspheres of gas such as hydrogen, helium and methane.
Gas Giants have deep, swirling, poisonous atmospheres,which give way to slushy oceans of frozen gasses. Theplanets don't have solid surfaces like the rocky planets,though deep inside may be layers of hard frozen gases.
Each gas giant has moons, rings, or both.
The closest gas planet is Jupiter, the solar system'slargest planet. It's 1400 times the size of earth. Next isSaturn, which has spectacular rings that are thousands of
miles or kilometers wide. Then there is Uranus, whichleans over so much its axis points directly to the sun. Thelast gas giant, Neptune, is so far away its sunlight is morethan a thousand times dimmer than on earth.
Beyond Neptune lies Pluto, our smallest, most distantplanet. It's forty times farther from the sun than Earth.
This cold chunk of ice, rock and metal may not haveformed the same way as the other planets. Pluto also hasan oversized moon called Charon, and appears to shareits orbit area with thousands of newly discovered smallobjects called Kuiper Belt Objects. In addition to KuiperBelt Objects, a couple of other groups of small piecesorbit in the solar system. These include asteroids. Thereare hundreds of thousands of asteroids, which resembleminiature planets ranging in size from a peanut up tonearly 600 miles, or 1000 kilometers, across. Most aster-oids circle the sun in a belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Some astronomers believe asteroids are pieces of a plan-et that could not put itself together because of the strongpull of Jupiter's gravity. Many scientists also think anasteroid hit the earth 65 million years ago and helpedcause the extinction of dinosaurs.
Once in a while a comet comes close to Earth, too. Co-mets are famous for bright tails millions of miles long.
However, the head, or nucleus, of an average comet isonly about 15 miles, or 20 kilometers, in diameter. As thenucleus approaches the sun it forms a glowing coma afew hundred miles or kilometers across. The spectaculartail that follows is made of escaping dust and gas that lookon fire from the sunlight they reflect.
Comets mostly stay far beyond Pluto in an area called theOort Cloud, where there are billions of them. Comets wesee have been knocked out of the Oort Cloud.
Somewhere on the outside edge of the Oort Cloud wemeet the Heliopause. The Heliopause marks the end ofthe sun's gravitational grasp, and the end of the solar sys-tem.
Our solar system is both simple and complex. The basic
concepts of gravity, inertia, and even nuclear fusion, arefairly easy to understand. But uncovering the details ofhow and why these things work will challenge scientistsfar into the future.
Our solar system spans trillions of miles or kilometers.
Still, it is just a grain of sand on an immense beach thatmakes up the Milky Way galaxy, which in turn is sur-rounded by countless other galaxies and endless oceansof deep space. Amazingly, the same forces that make oursolar system work, work across it all.
VIDEO QUIZ Let's take a few minutes to review some of the things youlearned in this video. In the following quiz, fill in theblanks with the correct words when you hear this tone.
Good luck. And let's begin.
1. Our solar system has lots of different parts, all tiedtogether by the sun's _____.
2. We sit near the edge of the ____ _____ Galaxy.
3. _____ is an unseen force that pulls one object to anoth-er.
4. What force keeps the planets from being pulled into thesun?
5.In the sun ____ _____ produces an amazing amount ofenergy, some of which we can see and feel 93 millionmiles away.
6.The four inner planets include ____, Venus, Earth, and____.
7.The four Gas Giants include ___, ____, Uranus, andNeptune.
8. Our smallest, most distant planet is _____.
9. Kuiper Belt Objects and _____ are among the groupsof small objects that orbit in the solar system with planets.
10. True or False: The Heliopause marks the end of thesun's gravitational grasp and the end of the solar system.
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