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Grade level: 6-8 Subject: Astronomy/Space Duration: Two class periods
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On Jupiter

Students will understand the following:
1. Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system—huge enough to swallow all the other planets and still have room to spare.

For this lesson, you will need:
Research materials on each planet in the solar system
Computer with Internet access
Photograph or picture of Jupiter, if possible
Materials students will need to create models of the solar system

1. Tell your students you are going to take them on an imaginary tour of the planet Jupiter. Then, acting as “tour guide,” show them a photo or picture of Jupiter as you proceed with the following description:Jupiter is the biggest planet in the solar system. It has at least 16 moons circling it—maybe even more! See those stripes around Jupiter? They are actually thick clouds filled with poisonous gases. That big red spot on the planet is a giant hurricane that has been going on for 300 years! In fact, the weather on Jupiter is awful—it’s always stormy, with huge lightning bolts and super-strong winds. You can’t land on Jupiter, because it’s not solid. Jupiter is composed mostly of the gas hydrogen.
2. Now that students know something about the planet Jupiter, tell them that they are going to divide into groups to make models of the solar system that will show just how much bigger Jupiter is than any of the other planets.
3. Before organizing your class into groups, go over with students the concept of scale. Make sure they understand that if they want to make a model that represents objects realistically,they must first establish a practical scale. For example, since the diameter of Jupiter is 88,700 miles (142,700 kilometers), the scale cannot be 1 mile to 1 inch, or the model of Jupiter would have to be 88,700 inches across—more than 7,000 feet! Suggest that a more reasonable way to determine scale, in this case, might be to compare Jupiter’s diameter to that of a smaller planet, say Earth, which is nearly 8,000 miles in diameter. Then Jupiter’s diameter will have to be approximately 11 times that of Earth in the model or diagram.
4. Have groups begin by assigning one group member to research the size of one, two, or three planets, depending on the number of students in each group. Once a group knows the diameter of each planet in the solar system, the members can decide on a scale and on a method for making their models. Models can range from diagrams drawn on paper to clay representations to a model in which a cabbage represents Jupiter and smaller fruits or vegetables the other planets.
5. Display all models in the classroom or around the school.
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Instead of taking students on a “tour” of the planet Jupiter, have them do research to find out what the planet is like and write descriptions of Jupiter based on the most recent scientific findings, including the Galileo spacecraft mission to Jupiter.
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Discussion Questions

1. Describe the information that can be obtained from a scale model of the solar system. Why is it impractical to select a scale for both the sizes and positions of planets?
2. How would Earth have been affected if there had never been a Jupiter?
3. What was the purpose of the Galileo spacecraft mission to Jupiter?
4. Why are scientists interested in comet and asteroid impacts on other planets?
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You can evaluate groups on their models using the following three-point rubric:
  • Three points:creatively conceived; carefully executed; accurate with regard to scale

  • Two points:concept acceptable; execution satisfactory; scale reflects some inaccuracies

  • One point:concept acceptable; execution careless; scale inaccurate
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Online from Jupiter
Invite students to visit the Web site “Online from Jupiter,” atnasa, to learn about the Galileo spacecraft mission to Jupiter. They will find field journals describing the day-to-day activities of Galileo personnel. Have them summarize what was learned from the Galileo spacecraft mission before the spacecraft was destroyed in Jupiter’s molten core.

Weighing In
Explain to students that the bigger the planet, the stronger the pull of gravity on objects on its surface (if you could stand on Jupiter’s surface, which you can’t). Challenge each student to do research to find out how much he or she would weigh on Jupiter and each planet in the solar system.

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Suggested Readings

Jupiter: The Giant Planet
by Reta Beebe, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994.

Secrets in the Night Sky: The Most Amazing Things in the Universe You Can See With the Naked Eye
by Bob Berman, William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1995.

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Online From Jupiter
At "Online from Jupiter," you'll find field journals describing the day-to-day activities of Galileo personnel. You will also find featured activities and resources for learning, including curriculum materials about Jupiter and Galileo, and don't forget to visit the photo gallery.

The Nine Planets - A Multimedia Tour of the Solar System
Your students can visit each planet in the solar system at this Internet site.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    comet
Definition:A celestial body that is made up of frozen gases and dust with an curved vapor tail emerging when the head approaches the sun.
Context:Astronomers predicted that the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 would collide with Jupiter in July 1994.

speaker    Jovian
Definition:Of, or having to do with, Jupiter. Jupiter was the supreme god in Roman mythology.
Context:As the Voyager spacecrafts passed through this Jovian kingdom, they encountered a realm of alien worlds, the like of which we had never expected.

speaker    magnetic field
Definition:A region or space containing a force that is around a magnet or electric current.
Context:The Galileo spacecraft was hearing the sound of lightening bolts rippling into the earth's magnetic field.

speaker    asteroids
Definition:Small celestial bodies that orbit the sun, mainly in the area between Mars and Jupiter.
Context:As a space-watch astronomer, Jim Scotty commutes regularly to the summit of Arizona's Kitt Peak to look for comets and asteroids which might be heading in Earth's direction.

speaker    infrared
Definition:Invisible radiation wavelengths greater than those with visible light and shorter than those of the microwave region.
Context:In Australia, astronomers chose to observe Jupiter with an infrared spectrometer.

speaker    spectrometer
Definition:An instrument used to measure wavelengths or the index of refraction.
Context:A spectrometer is an instrument that takes light from Jupiter and breaks it up into its constituent wave lengths.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:6-8
Subject area:science
Understands essential ideas about the composition and structure of the universe and the Earth's place in it.
Knows that nine planets of differing sizes and surface features and with differing compositions move around the Sun in nearly circular orbits; some planets have a variety of moons and rings of particles orbiting around them (e.g., the Earth is orbited by one moon, many artificial satellites and debris).

Knows that the Sun's gravitational pull keeps the Earth and other planets in their orbits, just as the gravitational pull of planets keeps their moons in orbit around them.

Knows that many pieces of rock and ice orbit our Sun: some meet the Earth in its orbit, glow and disintegrate from friction as they plunge through our atmosphere; other objects have long, off-center orbits that bring them close to the Sun, whose radiation boils off material and pushes it into a long, illuminated tail.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:science
Understands essential ideas about the composition and structure of the universe and the Earth's place in it.
Knows that the scientific account of the universe comes from studying evidence about its contents and imagining, with the help of mathematical models and computer simulations, how the contents got to be the way they are.

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