Solar System Puzzle Kit pdf - NASA

Venus Distance from Sun: 108,200,000 km Diameter: 12,100 km Composition: Rock and metal Atmosphere: Carbon dioxide Moons: None Venus Distance from Sun: 108,200,000 km Diameter: 12,100 km Composition: Rock and metal Atmosphere: Carbon dioxide Moons: None Sun Sun Diameter: 1,392,000 km Rotation: 27 days Composition: Hydrogen and helium Surface Temperature: About 5,800 degrees C Earth Distance from Sun: 149,600,000 km Diameter: 12,756 km Composition: Rock, metal, water Atmosphere: Nitrogen and oxygen Moons: 1 Venus Distance from Sun: 108,200,000 km Diameter: 12,100 km Composition: Rock and metal Atmosphere: Carbon dioxide Moons: None Solar System Puzzle Kit An Activity for Earth and Space Science Grades 5-8 Educational Product Teachers & Students National Aeronautics and Space Administration Office of Human Resources and Education Education Division

Transcript of Solar System Puzzle Kit pdf - NASA

Page 1: Solar System Puzzle Kit pdf - NASA

VenusDistance from Sun: 108,200,000 km

Diameter: 12,100 kmComposition: Rock and metal

Atmosphere: Carbon dioxide

Moons: None

VenusDistance from Sun: 108,200,000 km

Diameter: 12,100 kmComposition: Rock and metal

Atmosphere: Carbon dioxide

Moons: None

SunDiameter: 1,392,000 km

Rotation: 27 days

Composition: Hydrogen and helium

Surface Temperature:

About 5,800 degrees C

SunDiameter: 1,392,000 km

Rotation: 27 days

Composition: Hydrogen and helium

Surface Temperature:

About 5,800 degrees C

EarthDistance from Sun: 149,600,000 km

Diameter: 12,756 km

Composition: Rock, metal, water

Atmosphere: Nitrogen and oxygen

Moons: 1

VenusDistance from Sun: 108,200,000 km

Diameter: 12,100 kmComposition: Rock and metal

Atmosphere: Carbon dioxide

Moons: None

Solar System Puzzle KitAn Activity for Earth and Space Science


Educational Product

Teachers &Students

National Aeronautics andSpace Administration

Office of Human Resourcesand EducationEducation Division

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Solar System Puzzle Kit: An Activity for Earth andSpace Science is available in electronic formatthrough NASA Spacelink—one of the Agency’selectronic resources specifically developed for useby the educational community.

The system may be accessed at the followingaddress:

For additional information, E-mail a message to:[email protected]

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National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Office of Human Resources and EducationEducation Division

andOffice of Space Science

Solar System Exploration DivisionWashington, DC

Solar System Puzzle KitAn Activity for Earth and Space Science

This publication is in the Public Domain and is not protected by copyright.Permission for duplication is not required.


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The Solar System Puzzle Kit was designed for theNational Aeronautics and Space Administration by the:

Office of Human Resources and EducationEducation Division


Office of Space ScienceSolar System Exploration Division

Designer:Gregory L. Vogt, Ed.D.Teaching From Space ProgramNASA Johnson Space CenterHouston, TX

Writers:Gregory L. Vogt, Ed.D.Teaching From Space ProgramNASA Johnson Space CenterHouston, TX

Carla B. RosenbergTeaching From Space ProgramNASA HeadquartersWashington, DC

Contributors:Jens T. FeeleyOffice of Space ScienceSolar System Exploration DivisionNASA HeadquartersWashington, DC

Joseph M. BoyceOffice of Space ScienceSolar System Exploration DivisionNASA HeadquartersWashington, DC

Editor:Carla B. RosenbergTeaching From Space ProgramNASA HeadquartersWashington, DC


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Introduction ..................................................... 1NASA Images .................................................. 1Sun .................................................................. 2Mercury ........................................................... 2Venus .............................................................. 3Earth ................................................................ 3Mars ................................................................ 4Jupiter ............................................................. 4Saturn .............................................................. 5Uranus............................................................. 5Neptune ........................................................... 6Pluto ................................................................ 6Asteroids ......................................................... 7Comets ............................................................ 7Solar System Statistics ................................... 8Instructions for Puzzle Assembly .................... 9Color Guide ................................................... 10Puzzle Pieces ................................................ 11NASA Resources for Educators .................... 27Electronic Resources for Educators .............. 28Teacher Reply Card ............. Inside Back Cover

Table of Contents

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The Solar System Puzzle Kit allows studentsto create an eight-cube paper puzzle of thesolar system with the enclosed kit. The kitmay be duplicated for classroom use. It is alsorecommended as a take home activity forchildren and parents.

By assembling the puzzle, hand-coloring thebodies of the solar system, and viewing thepuzzle’s 12 sides, students will reinforce their

Introductionknowledge of the many fascinating worldsthat make up our solar system.

In addition to puzzle pieces, the kit containsinteresting facts about the Sun, each of theplanets, the asteroids, and the comets. Theresource section at the end of the publicationprovides sources to obtain additional re-sources on the solar system, including thoseon the Internet.

Some of the vast collection of images from theNational Aeronautics and Space Administration(NASA) have been converted into sketches forthis Solar System Puzzle Kit. These imagescome from a variety of sources, collected formore than 30 years from spacecraft that havetraveled—and in some cases are still traveling—throughout the solar system to learn more aboutthe Sun and the planets.

Through flyby spacecraft, orbiters, atmosphericprobes, and landers, NASA has studied all of theplanets from close range except Pluto. How-ever, Pluto has been observed with the HubbleSpace Telescope. A number of satellites havecollected images of the Sun, and so have astro-nauts on board the Skylab space station. Astro-nauts have taken a total of more than 200,000photographs of Earth from orbit.

NASA Images

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The Soft X-ray Telescope took this space image of the Sun on theJapan/U.S./UK Yohkoh mission in 1992.

This false-color photomosaic of Mercury is composed of imagestaken by Mariner 10 in 1974.

The planet Mercury is the closest to the Sun, orbitingwithin 46 million km to the Sun at its closest point.Because Mercury rotates on its axis once every 58.9days and circles the Sun once every 87.9 days,Mercury rotates exactly three times around its axisfor every two orbits around the Sun. If you wanted tostay up for one solar day on Mercury (sunrise tosunrise), you would be awake for two Mercurianyears (176 Earth days). The surface temperaturehas the greatest temperature range of any planet orsatellite in our system, reaching 427° C on the dayside and –183° C on the night side.

Smaller than all the other planets, except for Pluto,Mercury is about one-third the size of Earth. Thisplanet has a magnetic field, although Earth’s mag-netic field is considerably stronger. However, theplanet’s density (5.4 g/cm3) is about the same asEarth’s. Scientists think the density indicates anenormous iron core composing some 75 percentof Mercury’s diameter. A rocky mantle and crustonly about 600 km thick surround the core. Whenthe core and mantle cooled, the radius of theplanet reduced by 2 to 4 km. The probable resultof the planet’s crust shrinking is Mercury’s uniquesystem of compressive fractures.

Only half of the surface of Mercury has been seen byspacecraft. The heavily cratered upland regions andlarge areas of smooth plains that surround impactbasins resemble the surface of the Moon. Fine-grained soil covers Mercury’s surface. Unlike theMoon, regions of gently rolling, smooth plains are theplanet’s major type of terrain. Eruptions of lava withinand surrounding large impact craters formed thesesmooth plains.

The Sun, the star at the center of our solar system,is about 5 billion years old. The closest star toEarth, it is 145 million kilometers (km) distant (oneAstronomical Unit, or AU). The next closest star is300,000 times further away. Our Sun supports lifeon Earth and affects the seasons, climate, weather,currents in the ocean, and circulation of the air inthe atmosphere.

The Sun is some 333,400 times more massive thanEarth (mass = 1.99 x 1030 kg), and it contains 99.86percent of the mass of the entire solar system. Theionized gas in the Sun is held together by gravita-tional attraction, which produces immense internalpressure and high temperatures (more than a billiontimes greater than Earth’s atmosphere).

Inside the Sun’s core, temperatures reach16 million° K, which is sufficient to sustain thermo-nuclear fusion reactions. The total energy generatedis 383 billion trillion kilowatts/second (equivalent to100 billion tons of TNT exploding each second).Radiative and convective zones extend from thecore to the surface where the temperature decreasesfrom 8 million to 7,000° K, and the density decreasesfrom 20 g/cm3 to 4 x 10-7 g/m3. A photon takes about10 million years to escape from the dense core toreach the surface of the Sun.

The Sun’s surface, or photosphere, is the visible,500-km-thick layer of escaping radiation, light, andsunspots. Beyond the photosphere is the chromo-sphere, which appears during total solar eclipses asa reddish rim of hot hydrogen atoms. The coronaextends outward, forming the solar wind that sweepscharged particles to the edge of the solar system.


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Earth is the third planet from the Sun, the fifth largest planetin the solar system, and the only planet known to harborlife. Earth’s diameter is 656 km larger than that of Venus.We experience the planet’s rotation as the daily routine ofsunrise and sunset, while the four seasons result fromEarth’s axis of rotation being tilted more than 23 degrees.Our planet’s rapid spin and molten nickel-iron core giverise to a magnetic field, which the solar wind distorts intoa teardrop shape. Earth’s only satellite, the Moon isunusually large relative to its planet, with a diameter one-fourth of Earth’s. It has a slight egg shape, with the smallend pointing toward Earth; this causes the same side ofthe Moon to always face Earth.

An ocean of air that consists of 78 percent nitrogen, 21percent oxygen, and 1 percent other constituents enve-lopes the surface of the planet. This atmosphere shieldsus from nearly all harmful radiation coming from the Sunand protects us from meteors as well—most of which burnup before they can strike the surface.

The North American continent continues to move westover the Pacific Ocean basin, roughly at a rate equal to thegrowth of our fingernails. We are made aware of thismovement when it is interrupted by earthquakes. Scien-tists noticed a distinctive pattern to those earthquakes,leading them to conclude that Earth is dynamic, with itssurface separated into moving caps or plates. Earth-quakes result when plates grind past one another, ride upover one another, collide to make mountains, or split andseparate. These movements are known as plate tectonics.

Oceans at least 4 km deep cover nearly 70 percent ofEarth’s surface. Water exists in the liquid phase onlywithin a narrow temperature span (0 to 100 °C). Thistemperature span is especially narrow when contrastedwith the full range of temperatures found within the solarsystem. Water vapor in the atmosphere is responsiblefor much of Earth’s weather.

Galileo took this image of Earth showing South America andAntarctica in 1990 at a distance of 2 million km.

Venus, the second planet in the solar system, isknown throughout history as both the evening andthe morning star. Venus is Earth’s closest planetaryneighbor and is similar to Earth in size, mass, com-position, and distance from the Sun. Its scorchingsurface temperature of about 484° C could melt lead.The planet’s atmosphere consists mainly of carbondioxide with persistent sulfuric acid clouds. Thisatmosphere is extremely dense, exerting 90 timesmore pressure than Earth’s atmosphere does.

Venus rotates in a direction opposite of Earth, whichmeans that if you were standing on Venus, you wouldsee the Sun rising in the west and setting in the east.The planet rotates sluggishly. In fact, a “day” onVenus (243 Earth days) lasts longer than a Venusyear, which lasts 225 Earth days.

The Magellan spacecraft mapped 98 percentof the planet, revealing a surface consisting of27 percent lowlands, 65 percent rolling plains, and8 percent highlands. At least 85 percent of Venus iscovered by volcanic rock—mostly lava flows thatform the planet’s vast plains. Mountains deformed byrepeated geologic activity cover much of the remain-ing surface areas, some stretching 11 km high overthe plains. The density of craters formed by theimpact of asteroids and comets, at about two cratersper million square km, is lower than densities ofcraters on the Moon or Mars. In fact, few craters aresmaller than about 25 km in diameter because of theshielding effect of Venus’ dense atmosphere. Theatmospheric pressure completely crushes anddestroys any small meteorites with diameters of lessthan 1.5 km that pass through the atmosphere.

Produced by the Magellan mission in 1990, this false-color imageof Venus maps the surface of Venus below the clouds.

Venus Earth

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Mars—the fourth planet, the Red Planet—has polarice caps and markings that looked, through 19thcentury telescopes, to be similar to human-madewater canals on Earth. American and Russian orbitersdid not disclose any canals on Mars, but they did findevidence of surface erosion and dried riverbeds, indi-cating the planet was once capable of sustaining liquidwater. For millions of years, the Martian surface hasbeen barren of water; Mars is too cool and its atmo-sphere is too thin to allow liquid water to exist. There isno evidence of civilizations, and it is unlikely that thereare any extant life forms, but there may be fossils of lifeforms from a time when the climate was warmer andliquid water existed.

Mars is a small rocky planet. The surface of Mars retainsa record of its evolution, including volcanism, impactevents, and atmospheric effects. Layered terrains nearthe Martian poles suggest that the planet’s climate changeshave been periodic, perhaps caused by a regular changein the planet’s orbit. The crust of the planet seems to movevertically, with hot lava pushing upwards through the crustto the surface. Periodically, great dust storms occur thatengulf the entire planet. The effects of these storms aredramatic, including dunes, wind streaks, and wind-carvedfeatures.

Mars has some remarkable geological characteristics,including: the largest volcanic mountain, OlympusMons (27 km high and 600 km across), in the solarsystem; volcanoes in the northern Tharsis region thatare so huge they deformed the planet’s sphericalshape; a gigantic equatorial rift valley, the VallisMarineris; and a “crusted dichotomy,” with the northernthird being young lowlands and the southern two-thirdsancient highlands. This canyon system could easily fitthe Grand Canyon inside it; its distance is equivalent tothat between New York and Los Angeles.

Jupiter, the fifth planet, is the largest, containing two-thirdsof the planetary mass of our solar system. Jupiter is like asmall sun with its own miniature solar system; it is com-posed of hydrogen and helium and has 16 moons, as wellas a thin, three-band ring system. Jupiter does not burn likethe Sun because it contains only one-eightieth of the massneeded to ignite its liquefied gas.

Jupiter’s atmosphere contains turbulent cloud layers ofammonia ice, ammonium-hydrogen sulfide crystals, andwater ice or perhaps liquid water. The pressure of Jupiter’satmosphere is strong enough to form a layer of liquidmetallic hydrogen capable of conducting huge electricalcurrents. The persistent radio noise and strong magneticfield of Jupiter could emanate from this layer of metallicliquid. Jupiter’s magnetic field is immense, pouring billionsof watts into Earth’s own magnetic field every day. Theatmosphere bristles with lightning and swirls with hugestorm systems like the Great Red Spot, which havepersisted for at least 100 years (perhaps 400 years).

In December 1995, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft arrived atJupiter and deployed a probe into the Jovian atmosphere.The probe fell for nearly an hour, revealing that theatmosphere is much drier than expected and does notexhibit the three-tiered cloud layers anticipated. Further,the atmosphere contained only one-half the expectedhelium. The probe also revealed previously unknownradiation belts and a virtual absence of lightning. Afterreleasing the probe, Galileo embarked on a tour of theJovian system, performing flybys of the largest moons fromas much as 1,000 times closer than did the Voyagermissions. It has recorded volcanic activity on Io andrevealed that the moon has an iron core almost one-half itsdiameter. Also, the moon Europa may have a layer of warmice or liquid water beneath its cracked icy surface. Suchobservations promise to advance our understanding ofsmall bodies of the outer solar system for decades to come.

The U.S. Geological Survey produced this color-enhanced imageof Jupiter from a Voyager 1 image captured in 1979.

Viking Orbiter 1 took images of Mars in 1980 that were used tocompose this false-color mosaic.

Mars Jupiter

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First thought to be a comet, Uranus is the seventhplanet from the Sun. Four times the size of Earth,Uranus’ orbit extends 19 times farther from the Sunthan Earth’s orbit. Tipped, Uranus behaves as agiant top as it spins on an axis almost in the plane oforbit. This motion leads to extreme seasonal varia-tion in what sunlight is available. Over the period ofone Uranian year (84 Earth years), the polar regionsof the planet go through four seasons, as on Earth,with perpetual sunlight in the summer and totaldarkness in the winter. Periods of alternating dayand night are interspersed in the spring and fall. Dueto its great distance from the Sun, Uranus’ tempera-tures remain a somewhat constant –220° C through-out the year.

Uranus’ atmosphere consists primarily of hydrogenand helium, with a small amount of methane andtrace amounts of other gases present. The planet’sbluish-green color is a result of the methane in theatmosphere absorbing red light. The planet’s atmo-sphere is almost featureless, with faint cloudmarkings between 20° and 50° south latitude. Windspeeds range from 100 to 600 km/hr and blowwestward. At the equator, winds were clocked at1,042 km/hr, over four times faster than the stron-gest winds on Earth. Uranus has a magnetic fieldsimilar in strength to Earth’s, but the magnetic fieldis tipped by about 50 degrees with respect to the axisof rotation.

Uranus possesses a system of at least 11 thin, widelyseparated rings. The rings of Uranus are optically dark,on the average reflecting only 2 percent of the sunlightthat falls on them. Its 15 moons all lie along the planet’sequatorial plane, tipped 98 degrees relative to theplanet’s orbit to the Sun.

Saturn, the sixth planet, is a giant, gaseous planetwith an intriguing atmosphere. Alternate jet streamsof east-west and west-east circulation can be tracedin the motions of the cloud tops; the speeds of thesejet streams reach as much as 625 km/hr and areresponsible for the banded appearance of the clouds.The atmosphere consists mostly of hydrogen andhelium, but also includes trace amounts of otherelements. Electrical processes and heat from inter-nal planetary sources enrich the layered chemicalmix of the atmosphere, which probably transitionsfrom superheated water near the core to the ammo-nia ice clouds that are observed at the cloudtop. Theplanet’s atmosphere also features storm structuressimilar to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Saturn’s mag-netic field is 1,000 times stronger than Earth’s.

While Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune also have ringsystems, Saturn’s ring system is the most extensiveand brilliant. Today we know Saturn has seven majorring divisions. The rings may be the remnants ofmoons destroyed by tidal interaction with Saturn’sgravity. They may include remnants of comets thatpassed too close to Saturn and were likewise de-stroyed. Rings are composed mostly of ice crystals,ranging in size from a few centimeters to a few meters.The major rings contain hundreds of ringlets, withsome rings being “braided,” others being flanked withsmall moons, and shadowy “spokes” developing anddissipating in the rings.

Of Saturn’s 18 moons (two and possible four new moonswere discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in1995), some are covered in very smooth ice. Saturn’slargest moon, Titan, is a little bigger than Mercury and hasa thick atmosphere of nitrogen. This nitrogen atmospheremay be similar to primordial Earth, perhaps containing thechemical building blocks of life.

Voyager 2 took images of Saturn in 1981, from which this true-color image of the planet was assembled.

Voyager 2 took this image of Uranus in 1986.

Saturn Uranus

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Voyager 2 took this image of Neptune in 1989. The image wasprocessed to enhance the features of the planet.

The Hubble Space Telescope’s Faint Object Camera took thisimage of Pluto and Charon in 1994.

Neptune is the eighth planet and the smallest of thegiant gas planets. Its magnetic field—like that ofUranus—is a highly tilted 47 degrees from the axisof rotation.

Neptune receives only 3 percent as much sunlight asJupiter; yet it is a dynamic planet and surprisinglyshows several large, dark spots. The largest spot,dubbed the Great Dark Spot, was about the size ofEarth and was similar to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,which is a hurricane-like storm. Hubble Space Tele-scope images reveal that the Great Dark Spot isgone. Neptune has the strongest winds on anyplanet, with winds blowing up to 2,000 km/hr. Most ofits winds blow westward, opposite to the rotation ofthe planet. A small irregularly shaped, eastward-moving cloud “scoots” around Neptune every16 hours or so; this “scooter” could be a cloud plumerising above a deeper cloud deck.

Neptune has four rings and eight moons. The ringsappear to be “ring arcs,” or partial rings; however, theyactually are complete. The rings vary in thickness sothat they cannot be fully viewed from Earth. All eightmoons are small and remain close to Neptune’s equa-torial plane. Triton, the largest satellite of Neptune, isone of the most interesting satellites in the solarsystem. It shows evidence of a remarkable geologichistory, with active geyser-like eruptions spewing in-visible nitrogen gas and dark dust particles severalkilometers into the tenuous atmosphere. Triton’s rela-tively high density and retrograde orbit offer strongevidence that it is not an original member of Neptune’sfamily, but is a captured object.

Pluto is the smallest, coldest, and farthest planetfrom the Sun, with an orbit that is the most ellipticaland tilted. Due to its great distance, Pluto has notbeen visited by spacecraft. As a result, we do notknow much about Pluto.

We do know that Pluto is very small—smaller thanEarth’s moon, some 2,330 km across. The planet’ssurface is slightly reddish, composed of exotic snowsof methane, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide. Plutohas polar caps as well as large, dark spots near theequator. Evidence indicates the existence of a rockand water ice interior. Above the surface lies anatmosphere one millionth the density of Earth’s.Although the atmosphere is much more tenuousthan Earth’s, Pluto’s low gravity (about 6 percent ofEarth’s) causes the atmosphere to be much moreextended in altitude than Earth’s. Because Pluto’sorbit is so elliptical, the planet grows much colderduring the part of each orbit when it is far from theSun. As a result, Pluto’s atmosphere is thought topersist only for the part of its orbit when Pluto is closerto the Sun, as it is now. When it is further from theSun, the atmosphere freezes out on the surface as ice.

The moon Charon, which is almost half the size ofPluto, orbits the planet every 6.4 days, at an altitudeof about 18,300 km. Given the rough similarity ofPluto’s size to Charon’s, most planetary scientistsrefer to Pluto-Charon as a double, or binary, planet.Charon’s surface differs from Pluto’s; it is coveredwith dirty water ice and does not reflect as much lightas Pluto’s surface. Charon’s surface is devoid ofstrong color. To date, scientists have not foundevidence to indicate that Charon has an atmosphere.

Neptune Pluto

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This mosaic of asteroid 243 Ida was acquired by Galileo in 1993at ranges of 3,057 to 3,821 km.

Taken at Mauna Kea Observatory on Illa-Jemulson in 1986, thisimage of Halley’s Comet stretches over 6° of the sky.

A large number of rocky and metallic objects orbitaround the Sun but are too small to be consideredfull-fledged planets. These objects are known asasteroids or minor planets. Asteroids are materialleft over from the formation of the solar system.Some 4,000 numbered and named asteroids circlethe Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.Scientists speculate that an additional 100,000asteroids exist with diameters greater than 1 km.

The asteroid belt appears to be divided into twovery different regions. The inner asteroid belt(inside about 400 million km) is dominated bymaterials produced by strong heating and meltingof the original proto-asteroids; later fragmentationhas exposed their deep interiors. Beyond 400million km, the belt is dominated by dark objectsrich in carbon, organic molecules, and sometimeswater-rich clay minerals. These materials couldnot have survived significant heating, and aster-oids in this region probably preserve much infor-mation about the formation of the solar system.

A few asteroids in the inner portion of the asteroidbelt are referred to as Mars-crossing or Amorasteroids, because the orbits of these objectscross that of Mars. In addition, well over 30 objectshave been located that come in far enough tocross Earth’s orbit. These Earth-crossing or Apolloasteroids usually measure a few km in diameter,or less, with the largest measuring about 8 kmacross. Most Earth-crossing asteroids appear tooriginate in the main asteroid belt. There is evi-dence that Earth has been hit by asteroids in thepast. One of the least eroded, best preservedexamples is the Barringer Meteor Crater nearWinslow, Arizona.

Most comets reside in the Oort cloud, some 50 to100,000 AU in diameter around the Sun. Cometnuclei orbit in this frozen abyss until they aregravitationally perturbed into new orbits that carrythem close to the Sun. Many of the nearly 900recorded comets have orbital periods in excess of200 years. Some comets pass through the solarsystem only once, while others have their orbitsgravitationally modified by a close encounter withone of the giant outer planets. These latter visitorscan enter closed elliptical orbits and repeatedlyreturn to the inner solar system.

The nucleus of a comet is an irregularly shaped,almost black aggregate of water ice, carbon, sili-cone, methane, and ammonia. The average size ofthe nucleus ranges from 1 to 10 km in diameter. Asa nucleus falls inside the orbits of the outer planets,the volatile elements of which it is made graduallywarm. By the time the nucleus enters the region ofthe inner planets, these volatile elements are boiling,forming a coma, or cloud-like “head,” that can mea-sure tens of thousands of km across. The comagrows as the comet gets closer to the Sun.

The charged particles from the Sun, known as thesolar wind, push on the coma, blowing it back andforming “tails.” One tail, consisting of of gases andions, is pushed out by radiation pressure, and theother tail escapes along magnetic field lines. As thenucleus orbits, the dust particles are left behind in acurved arc. Both the gas and dust tails point awayfrom the Sun; in effect, the comet chases its tails asit recedes from the Sun. The tail can reach 150million km in length, but the total amount of materialcontained in this dramatic display would fit in anordinary suitcase.

Asteroids Comets

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8 Solar System Statistics

* Inclinations greater than 90° imply retrograde rotation.













Categories Sun Satur















3. EquatorialDiameter(Kilometers)

1. Mean DistanceFrom Sun(Millions ofKilometers)

2. Period ofRevolution

4. Atmosphere(MainComponents)

5. Moons

6. Rings

7. Inclination ofOrbit to Ecliptic

8. Eccentricity ofOrbit

9. Rotation Period

10. Inclination ofAxis*


Methane + ?

6 days 9 hours18 min.retrograde










16 hours 7 min.








28° 48'






11 (?)



17 hours12 min.

97° 55'





18+ (?)

1,000 (?)



10 hours40 min.

26° 44'









9 hours 55 min.

3° 5'









24 hours37 min.

25° 12'








23 hours56 min.

23° 27'



















Near 0°





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9Instructions for Puzzle Assembly

7. When all cubes are assembled, put the puzzletogether. Starting with one side of the puzzleat a time, begin coloring the images of theobjects pictured. Use the coloring instructionsas a guide or have students find images of theplanets and Sun in astronomy books and try tomatch the colors in the puzzle. You can alsocolor the captions.

Alternate Construction TechniquesA more rugged puzzle can be constructed by gluingthe squares to blocks of wood or other materials.Reduce or expand the patterns on a copy machine tofit the blocks. Be sure to place the squares in theproper positions so that properly oriented puzzlefaces will be created.

Activities and Questions1. Assemble the puzzle cubes so that all sides

match. The exterior faces of the puzzle picturethe Sun and five planets. The other objects arevisible when the inside faces are opened.

2. Based on the information contained in the charton page 8, discuss the different sizes of theobjects pictured in the puzzle. Because of vastdifferences between the Sun and the planets, noconsistent scale has been used for the images.Have students draw a circle on the chalkboardone meter in diameter. Then have the studentsdraw other circles to represent the planets toscale. Use the chart on page 8.

3. Discuss the distances between the planets.Make a scale model of the distances of theplanets using the distance between Earth andthe Sun as a reference. Let that distance equalone meter.

4. Why is it difficult to create a scale model of thesolar system with both distance and diameters tothe same scale?

5. Why are only the rings of Saturn shown on thepuzzle and not the rings of Jupiter, Uranus, andNeptune?

6. Why is only half of Mercury pictured?7. Have other nations sent spacecraft to study the

planets? Which ones?8. What spacecraft made the picture of Pluto?9. Why is Pluto shown with its single moon Charon?10. If you were the first explorer to travel to the other

planets, what would you want to learn about them?

Instructions1. Carefully cut out each cube pattern.2. Using the razor blade knife and a cutting surface

beneath, cut the center of the small slots oneach pattern. Matching tabs will be inserted intothese slots.

3. With the metal edge ruler for a guide, use thebutter knife to score the white dashed lines oneach pattern. Be sure not to press down so hardthat the paper is cut. The score lines will make iteasy to fold the patterns precisely. Also score thetabs and flaps.

4. Pre-fold each pattern piece on the score lines tomake sure the folds are square.

5. Each pattern page forms a single cube. Join thecorresponding tabs and slots (A to A, B to B, etc.)of the puzzle pieces to begin forming cubes. Usetape on the inside of the cube joint to hold thesepieces together firmly.

6. Join the edges of the cubes together by insertingtabs into the corresponding slots cut into theflaps. Work your way around the cube until allsides are joined. You may wish to use the pointof the razor blade knife to assist you in getting thelast tabs in place. (Assembly gets easier withpractice!) After assembling each cube, you canmake them stronger by pulling the tabs slightlyfrom their slots and placing a small drop of glueon the tabs. Push the tabs back in and set thecube aside to dry.

MaterialsSolar System Puzzle Patterns*Cellophane tapeColored marker pens or pencilsScissorsRazor blade craft knifeButter knifeCutting surfaceMetal edge rulerWhite glue (optional)* If possible, copies of the puzzle patterns

should be printed on 60 to 100 poundweight white paper or could be glued onposter board. Otherwise, have the pat-terns duplicated at a commercial copierbusiness on heavy paper stock.

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10 Color Guide

Sun:Color the entire disk of theSun yellow. Add orangeand red over the mottledareas of the Sun’s sur-face. Leave the white ar-eas yellow. Color theprominences shooting outfrom the surface red.

Mercury:Color the entire planetlight gray.

Venus:Color the entire planetorange. Darken theshaded areas with tan orlight brown.

Earth:Color the oceans blue.Leave the clouds and theice of Antarctica white.Color Africa and Mada-gascar tan with a greentint. Make the darkershaded areas slightlymore brown.

Mars:Color the entire planetorange.

Jupiter:Color the light areas yel-low. Make the Great RedSpot and the shaded bandnear it reddish. Color allshaded bands orangewith a slight red tint.

Saturn:Color the entire planetand its rings tan or lightorange.

Uranus:Color the entire planetblue green.

Neptune:With the exception ofsome white clouds nearthe Great Dark Spot,color the entire planetlight blue. Make the spotand the shaded bandsdarker blue.

Pluto and Charon:Color the fuzzy outeredges light blue. Leavethe centers white.

Comet:Leave white.

Asteroid:Color the entire asteroidlight gray.

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SunDiameter: 1,392,000 kmRotation: 27 daysComposition: Hydrogen and HeliumSurface Temperature: About 5,800 degrees C



NeptuneDistance from Sun: 4,497,000,000 kmDiameter: 49,528 kmComposition: Gas and rockAtmosphere: Hydrogen, helium, and methaneMoons: 8Rings: 4







: 227






er: 6


.8 k




n: R







e: C


n di




: 2

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EarthDistance from Sun: 149,600,000 kmDiameter: 12,756 kmComposition: Rock, metal, waterAtmosphere: Nitrogen and oxygenMoons: 1







e fr

om S

un: 1







er: 1


00 k




n: G

as a

nd r







n an

d he



ns: 1

8 (o

r m



gs: 1




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Page 20: Solar System Puzzle Kit pdf - NASA


UranusDistance from Sun: 2,871,000,000 kmDiameter: 51,800 kmComposition: Gas and rockAtmosphere: Hydrogen, helium, and methaneMoons: 15Rings: 11?



VenusDistance from Sun: 108,200,000 kmDiameter: 12,100 kmComposition: Rock and metalAtmosphere: Carbon dioxideMoons: None

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CometsDistance from Sun: Ranging from millions to trillions of kmDiameter: 1-10 kmComposition: Dust and iceAtmosphere: Water ice turns to gas when warmed by Sun



JupiterDistance from Sun: 778,300,000 kmDiameter: 143,200 kmComposition: Gas and rockAtmosphere: Hydrogen and heliumMoons: 16Rings: 1

MercuryDistance from Sun: 57,9,000,000 kmDiameter: 4,880 kmComposition: Rock and metalAtmosphere: NoneMoons: None

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Page 24: Solar System Puzzle Kit pdf - NASA


Pluto and CharonDistance from Sun: 5,913,000,000 kmDiameter: ~ 2,330 kmComposition: Ice and rockAtmosphere: MethaneMoons: 1



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Asteroids (Gaspra)Distance from Sun: Inner asteroid belt

(<400 million km) and outer belt(>400 million km)

Diameter: 1-1,000 kmComposition: Rock and metalAtmosphere: None



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27NASA Resources for EducatorsNASA On-line Resources for Educators provide current educationalinformation and instructional resource materials to teachers, faculty,and students. A wide range of information is available, includingscience, mathematics, engineering, and technology education lessonplans, historical information related to the aeronautics and spaceprogram, current status reports on NASA projects, news releases,information on NASA educational programs, useful software, andgraphics files. Educators and students can also use NASA resourcesas learning tools to explore the Internet, to access information abouteducational grants, to interact with other schools that are already on-line, to participate in on-line interactive projects, and to communicatewith NASA scientists, engineers, and other team members to experi-ence the excitement of real NASA projects.

Access these resources through the NASA Education Home Page:

or, for more infromation, send an e-mail to:[email protected]

NASA Television (NTV) is the Agency’s distribution system for live andtaped programs. It offers the public a front-row seat for launches andmissions, as well as informational and educational programming, historicaldocumentaries, and updates on the latest developments in aeronauticsand space science. NTV is transmitted on GE-2 on Transponder 9C at85 degrees West longitude, vertical polarization, with a frequency of3,880 megahertz, audio on 6.8 megahertz, or through collaboratingdistance learning networks and local cable providers.

Apart from live mission coverage, regular NASA Television programmingincludes a News Video File from noon to 1:00 pm, a NASA History Filefrom 1:00 to 2:00 pm, and an Education File from 2:00 to 3:00 pm (alltimes Eastern). This sequence is repeated at 3:00 pm, 6:00 pm, and9:00 pm, Monday through Friday. The NTV Education File featuresprogramming for teachers and students on science, mathematics, andtechnology, including the NASA. . .On the Cutting Edge EducationSatellite Videoconference Series. The videoconferences include NASAscientists, astronauts, and education specialists presenting aeronauticsand Earth and space science topics of interest to teachers and studentsof grades 5-12. The series is free to registered educational institutions.The videoconferences and all NASA Television programming may bevideotaped for later use.

For more information on NASA Television, contact:NASA Headquarters, Code P-2, NASA TV, Washington, DC20546-0001Phone: (202) 358-3572Home Page:

For more information about the Education Satellite VideoconferenceSeries, contact: Videoconference Producer, NASA Teaching FromSpace Program, 308 CITD, Room A, Oklahoma State University,Stillwater, OK 74078-8089E-mail: [email protected] Page:

How to Access NASA’s Education Materials and Services,EP-1996-11-345-HQThis brochure serves as a guide to accessing a variety of NASAmaterials and services for educators. Copies are available through theTRC network, or electronically via NASA Spacelink.

Regional Educator Resource Centers (RERCs) offer more educatorsaccess to NASA educational materials. NASA has formed partnershipswith universities, museums, and other educational institutions to serveas RERCs in many states. A complete list of RERCs is available throughCORE, or electronically via NASA Spacelink.

NASA’s Central Operation of Resources for Educators (CORE) wasestablished for the national and international distribution of NASA-produced educational materials in audiovisual format. Educators canobtain a catalog and an order form by one of the following methods:

• NASA CORELorain County Joint Vocational School15181 Route 58 SouthOberlin, OH 44074

• Phone (216) 774-1051, Ext. 249 or 293• Fax (216) 774-2144• E-mail: [email protected]• Home Page:

Educator Resource Center NetworkTo make additional information available to the education community,the NASA Education Division has created the NASA Educator ResourceCenter (ERC) network. ERCs contain a wealth of information for educa-tors: publications, reference books, slide sets, audio cassettes, video-tapes, telelecture programs, computer programs, lesson plans, andteacher guides with activities. Educators may preview, copy, or receiveNASA materials at these sites. Because each NASA Field Center has itsown areas of expertise, no two ERCs are exactly alike. Phone calls arewelcome if you are unable to visit the ERC that serves your geographicarea. A list of the centers and the regions they serve includes:

AK, AZ, CA, HI, ID, MT, NV, OR,UT, WA, WYNASA Educator Resource CenterMail Stop 253-2NASA Ames Research CenterMoffett Field, CA 94035-1000Phone: (415) 604-3574

CT, DE, DC, ME, MD, MA, NH,NJ, NY, PA, RI, VTNASA Educator Resource LaboratoryMail Code 130.3NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterGreenbelt, MD 20771-0001Phone: (301) 286-8570

CO, KS, NE, NM, ND, OK, SD, TXNASA Educator Resource RoomMail Code AP-2NASA Johnson Space Center2101 NASA Road OneHouston, TX 77058-3696Phone: (281) 483-8696

FL, GA, PR, VINASA Educator Resource LaboratoryMail Code ERLNASA Kennedy Space CenterKennedy Space Center, FL 32899-0001Phone: (407) 867-4090

KY, NC, SC, VA, WVVirginia Air and Space MuseumNASA Educator Resource Center forNASA Langley Research Center600 Settler’s Landing RoadHampton, VA 23669-4033Phone: (757) 727-0900 x 757

IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WINASA Educator Resource CenterMail Stop 8-1NASA Lewis Research Center21000 Brookpark RoadCleveland, OH 44135-3191Phone: (216) 433-2017

AL, AR, IA, LA, MO,TNU.S. Space and Rocket CenterNASA Educator Resource Center forNASA Marshall Space Flight Cente rP.O. Box 070015Huntsville, AL 35807-7015Phone: (205) 544-5812

MSNASA Educator Resource CenterBuilding 1200NASA Stennis Space CenterStennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000Phone: (601) 688-3338

NASA Educator Resource CenterJPL Educational OutreachMail Stop CS-530NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory4800 Oak Grove DrivePasadena, CA 91109-8099Phone: (818) 354-6916

CA cities near the centerNASA Educator Resource Center forNASA Dryden Flight Research Center45108 N. 3rd Street EastLancaster, CA 93535Phone: (805) 948-7347

VA and MD's Eastern ShoresNASA Educator Resource LabEducation Complex - Visitor CenterBuilding J-1NASA Wallops Flight FacilityWallops Island, VA 23337-5099Phone: (757) 824-2297/2298

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28 Electronic Resources for Educators

The following listing of Internet addresses will pro-vide users with robust links to Earth and spacescience educational materials throughout the WWW.NASA resources begin with sites that cover a rangeof topics and become increasingly science specific.

NASA ResourcesNASA Spacelink (See inside front cover.)

NASA Home Page

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Space ScienceEducation Home Pagehhtp://

NASA Mission to Planet Earth Home Page

NASA Office of Space Science Home Page

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Learning Link

Remote Sensing Public Access Center

Public Access to NASA’s Planetary Data

Lunar and Planetary Institute

Astronomy On-line: Ask Dr. Sue

NASA/JPL Imaging Radar Home Page

Global Quest: The Internet in the Classroom

Other Earth and Space Science ResourcesArizona Mars K-12 Educational Supplementand Guide,327

Astronomical Society of the Pacific

Earth System Science Education ProgramUniversities Space Research Association

The Nine Planets: A Multimedia Tour of the SolarSystem

The Planetary Society

San Francisco State University Physics and As-tronomy

Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)

Space Telescope Science Institute Exploration inEducation (EXInED) Picture Books

Telescopes In Education

Many of the planetary images in this publica-tion are available to educators in the file“Welcome to the Planets,” via the World WideWeb (WWW) located at:

Copies of the CD-ROM “Welcome to thePlanets” for Macintosh and DOS/Windowsplatforms are available for purchase throughthe National Space Science Data Center.Contact:

Request Coordination OfficeNational Space Science Data CenterCode 633.4NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterGreenbelt, MD 20771E-mail: [email protected]

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TEACHER REPLY CARDSolar System Puzzle Kit

An Activity for Earth and Space Science

To achieve America’s goals in educational excellence, it is NASA’s mission to developsupplementary instructional materials and curricula in science, mathematics, andtechnology. NASA seeks to involve the educational community in the development andimprovement of these materials. Your evaluation and suggestions are vital to continu-ally improving NASA educational materials.

Please take a moment to respond to the statements and questions below. You cansubmit your response through the Internet or by mail. Send your reply to the followingInternet address:

You will then be asked to enter your data at the appropriate prompt.

Otherwise, please complete this reply card and return by mail. Thank you.

1. With what grades did you use the puzzle kit?Number of Teachers/Faculty:_____ K-4 _____5-8 _____9-12 _____Community College College/University


Number of Students:_____ K-4 _____5-8 _____9-12 _____Community College College/University


Number of Others:_____ Administrators/Staff _____ Parents _____ Professional Groups_____ Civic Groups _____ General Public Other ________________________


2. What is your 9-digit zip code? __ __ __ __ __ — __ __ __ __

3. How was the quality of this puzzle kit?

Excellent Good Average Poor Very Poor

4. How did you use this puzzle kit?

Background Information Critical Thinking Tasks

Demonstrate NASA Materials Demonstration

Group Discussions Hands-On Activities

Integration Into Existing Curricula Interdisciplinary Activity

Lecture Science and Mathematics

Team Activities Standards Integration

Other: Please specify:


5. What features of this puzzle kit did you find particularly helpful?





6. How can we make this puzzle kit more effective for you?





7. Additional comments:




Today’s Date: __________________________


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