do the atmosphere, solar energy and water found on Earth compare with
what we find on other planets? In this activity you will locate and interpret
evidence comparing Earth's characteristics with those of other planets
and moons in the solar system. As you complete this activity, you will
demonstrate your ability to use appropriate research and data collection
skills. Good luck!
Identify the characteristics of Earth's environment and
the requirements which make life possible. Compare the characteristics
to those of other planets and moons in the solar system. Ask yourself
the following questions:
- Can humans travel to this planet or moon?
- Is the planet or moon capable of supporting life?
- What characteristics of Earth are similar to the planet or
- What characteristics of life are missing from this location?
- How can humans learn more about planets and moons?
- What technologies have scientists developed to study these
areas of the universe?
- What technologies would need to be invented to assist in future
Get to Know The Planets
- School textbook
- Copy the following chart onto a full sheet of paper, using the whole
page. The chart will be used to compare and contrast characteristics
of the different planets in our solar system. Example:
- Each box should include:
- Average or mean distance from the sun
- Period of revolution
- Equatorial diameter (Earth = 1)
- Atmosphere (main components)
- Moons or natural satellites, if any
- Number of rings, if any
- Rotation period
- Mass (Earth = 1)
- Mean density (gram/cm3)
- “Surface” temperature (°C or °F) average
- Use the Internet or Library to complete chart.
- Analyze trends and patterns of the planets.
- If the distance is shown as an average, what does this tell
you about a planet’s distance from the Sun?
- Which moons have an atmosphere?
On which planets has water been discovered?
What is needed to determine the presence or absence
of water on each of the planets and moons?
What is the relationship between the solar energy
a planet receives and its distance from the sun?
What does the fact
that the distance is shown as an average tell you about a planet’s
distance form the Sun?
What other objects or machines can you think
of that have a period of rotation and/or a period of revolution?
Is there a pattern in the rotation periods of
the planets? Is there one planet whose rotation period is different
from the rotation periods of other planets in its size range?
The rings of Saturn are believed to have icy particles,
reflecting light brightly and colorfully. The other ringed planets
have darker and less numerous rings, probably made up of dustier and
rockier materials. Is there something resembling a ring system orbiting
There is a jump in the pattern for mean distance
from Mars and Jupiter to the Sun. Is there another jump in the data?
- Which planets have an atmosphere that is similar to Earth's?
- Gather in a group of nine.
- Each student pick one of the
- Write a six paragraph, 12 pt. font, on your planet. Be ready to report
to your group.
- Your report should
- The planet's name: What does the name mean? (Many planets were
named after mythological gods.)
- Position in the solar system: Where is your planet located, counting
out from the sun? How far from the sun does it orbit? Is
its orbit unusual?
- Rotation on its axis: How long does it take to rotate on its
own axis? (This is one day on your planet.)
- Size: How big is your planet? How does its size (biggest? smallest?)
rate with the other planets? What is your planet's mass?
- Gravity: What is the force of gravity at the surface? For example,
what would a 100-pound person weigh on that planet? (Find
the answer in the exploratorium.)
- Orbit: How long does it take to orbit the sun? (This is one year
on your planet.)
- Atmosphere: What is the composition of the atmosphere? Is it
a thick or a thin atmosphere?
- Temperature: What is the temperature range? How does this compare
to the temperature on Earth?
- Composition and appearance: What type of planet is it? (rocky?
a gas giant?) What is its internal composition? What does your
planet look like?
- Moons: Are there moons orbiting your planet? If so, what
is their description and when were they discovered?
- Rings: Are there rings orbiting your planet? If so, what
is their description and when were they discovered?
- How human beings would fare: Would a person choke in the atmosphere,
be squashed by the extreme gravity, float with ease, freeze, burn
up, or something else?
- Something special: Is there anything special about your planet?
(This can often be the best part of the report, taking you off
on interesting topics. For example, are there 100-year-long storms?
Are there giant volcanoes? Does your planet have a tilted
axis that gives it extreme seasons? Have spacecraft visited your
planet? If so, what have they discovered? Is your planet in an
orbital resonance with another body?)
- Discovery: When was your planet discovered and by whom? (The
planets not visible to the naked eye, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto,
were discovered after the invention of the telescope).
Citing Your References: When you write your bibliography,
list all of your references
- Web Site: Author(s) if appropriate. Title
of Site or web page. URL of site, date of publication (the earliest
copyright year listed).
- Book: Author(s). Title of book. Edition.
Location of publisher: Name of Publisher, year of publication.
Title of encyclopedia, volume of encyclopedia used. Location of publisher:
Name of Publisher, year of publication, pages
where the article is located.
- Magazine or Journal: Author(s). "Title of
of magazine, Volume.issue (date): pages where the article
- Author(s) are listed last name first, first name or initials
(as cited in the publication).
- Present your report orally to your peers.
- You might use these rubrics for your research
and this presentation.
- Write a diamante about your planet and another planet you learned about.
(Example: gas versus rocky.) The diamante (dee-ah-mahn-tay) is a seven
line contrast poem that is set up to appear in a diamond shape on the
- One word (a noun, the subject)
- Two words (adjectives describing 1)
- Three words (“ing” or “ed” words that relate
to 1) verbs or verbals
- Four words (first two nouns relate to 1, second two nouns to 7)
Three words (“ing” or “ed” words that relate
to 7) verbs verbals
Two words (adjectives describing 7)
One word (a noun, opposite of 1)
- Contrast between planets occurs in this line.
The following is an example of a Diamante about school.
Studying, working, learning,
Lessons, homework, freedom, leisure,
Relaxing, playing, resting,
- Download this NASA
publication for an activity on what characteristics
a planet needs to have life.