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|Earth Sun and Seasons|
|Solar System Search|
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By the end of this project, the student will be able to:
Very little background knowledge is required for this project. Students should know the basic layout of our Solar System, that planets orbit the sun in elliptical paths, and that there is a belt of asteroids between Jupiter and Mars.
Students should understand what a graph and a coordinate system are. They should be comfortable reading the axis of a graph and plotting data points.
Students should also be comfortable using a web browser, and, if you decide to do the graphing portions of the project in a graphing or spreadsheet program, they should be familiar with that program as well. If you are using Excel, you may want to have students complete the SkyServer Graphing Data Tutorial to prepare to use this tool.
Students should work in groups of two or three. Each group will need a computer with a web browser, preferably connected to a printer.
Each group of students will need the following materials for each activity (links indicate files that can be downloaded as PDF documents or JPEG images):
Activity 1: Coordinate Systems
When groups have finished taping their Earth maps into a cylinder, it should look like this (click for a larger version):
Activity 2: Mapping the Solar System
When groups have finished taping their sky maps into a cylinder, it should look like this (click for a larger version):
Activity 3: Earth, Sun, and Seasons
To prepare for this project, you should print out copies of all materials and set up a large graph for activity 2. Check to make sure that computers are set up properly, and that you have the link to the project ready to provide to students.
Also, you are strongly advised to try the activity beforehand.
Because this project involves maps and tape, and materials that carry over from activity to activity, you may want to collect the students' work at the end of each day and return it on the next. That way, no group will be left without materials if a member is absent.
The project can be divided into four 45-minute class periods or three class periods for more advanced students (one activity per class).
Procedure (Students work in groups of 2 or 3)
The extension activity adds an extra level of complexity by having the student consider another coordinate system - ecliptic longitude and latitude. To complete this activity, students will once again need to use the Solar System Search Form
A quick and useful homework assignment is to have students summarize what they have learned from the project, list what they have learned previously that helped them understand the project, and to state what they liked and what they did not like about the project. Click on one of the links below to get the activity as a Flash file, PDF file, or Word document:
Few or no computer classrooms
This activity requires the use of a computer. However, students work in groups of 2 to 3, and only one computer is required per group. If computers are available to the students at home or in a library, the activity could be introduced in class and continued outside the classroom. For classrooms with only 1 or 2 computers, student groups could take turns at the computer - cycling between the computer and written portions of the lessons.
The project can be done by an individual rather than a group. It would be best if a student working alone could exchange his or her results with another student to check the work.