Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hands-On with Jupiter

Ok, I have put off Jupiter for too long now. The planet is cool and all, what with the huge, 300+ year old storm (the great red spot), and the fact that the planet is so large, full of gas, and has 60+ moons. When it came to the hands-on activities, however, it was overall a bust - for me, not the kids. I think mostly I did not want to make the edible Earth/Jupiter planets to compare the sizes and layers. I mean, it was not difficult to throw together, but the items used kind of disgusted me. But again, no complaints from the kids! The coolest thing, in my opinion, was the computer game I found where the kids could launch a comet at Jupiter, and by changing different aspects (speed, angle, size of the comet or the mass of the object the comet is heading toward), they saw how the comet's impact was affected.

Without further ado, here is what we did:

Storms on Jupiter

First we watched a very quick video on You Tube of the Great Red Spot, and watched how the storm moved. Then we did this Storms on Jupiter activity. Using cornstarch and water, we created a simulation of the appearance of Jupiter's atmosphere. Dragging a spoon through the dish moved the water in a similar fashion as the storm on Jupiter.

Hurricane Tube

With Daddy's help, we made a hurricane tube, or as my husband says, a tornado tube, to continue with the weather theme. Still, the kids loved turning the bottle upside down and spinning the water to see the funnel at work.

Jupiter as Protector

Jupiter is like a mother to Earth because it protects us. From what? From comets, meteoroids, and other space rocks that could potentially hit Earth. With its large size and heavy gravitational pull, it can easily do this, and that is also why it has over 60 moons to date!

First we watched a short video of pieces of the Comet Shoemaker Levy colliding with Jupiter. Next we headed to this site to pelt Jupiter with a virtual comet (click on the link for Planet Impact!).

Jupiter's Layers

The last topic I wanted the kids to learn about was the difference between a gas planet and a rocky one. After completing a worksheet about gas vs. rocky planets, we created an edible Earth and Jupiter to compare both sizes and layers. 

One last thing I want to try is taking a look at Jupiter through our telescope to see if we can find a few of Jupiter's larger moons. Apparently they can be seen by binoculars or telescopes at home. They look like smaller stars orbiting around Jupiter. To do this, though, we need a clear night and one where the kids are up a little later so it will have to wait just a bit.

And now, we are ready to move on to Saturn, one of my favorite planets - the rings and diamonds of course! 

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