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Solar System - What More Can There Be?

Journal Entry - Take out your science journal and answer the following question(s) (use drawings as appropriate):

What are the other objects in our solar system besides the sun, planet, and moons? Briefly describe each one.

If you have watched the night sky, you may have seen shooting stars, meteor showers, or even comet Hale-Bopp. If you have seen any of these you know there are more objects in the sky.

Comets can be thought of as a dirty snowball about the size of an Earth mountain. They come from the cold, outer solar system. These small bodies of loosely packed ice, rock, and cosmic dust orbit the sun in long, narrow ellipses or ovals. As comets approach the sun the heat causes them to vaporize, which releases dust and rock. This dust and rock forms the tail.

Asteroids are chunks of rocks that range in size from a few meters to over 900 km in diameter. They orbit the sun and are found in the area between Mars and Jupiter. There are over 10,000 asteroids; and more are found every month.

Meteoroids usually come from asteroids or comets. When they enter the earth’s atmosphere, they burn up due to friction. Meteoroids then produce streaks of light that some people mistakenly call shooting stars; which are really meteors.

Normally, a meteor burns up; but every once in a while one sneaks through the atmosphere and hits the Earth’s surface. This is known as a meteorite. Most of them look like Earth's rocks and go unnoticed. Some have caused craters as big as 200 m deep and 1.2 km wide.

Making a Dirty Comet
CAUTION BEFORE YOU BEGIN THIS ACTIVITY MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ALL THE FOLLOWING SAFETY MATERIALS:

  • GLOVES
  • GOGGLES
  • ADULT SUPERVISION!

Materials:

  • Large plastic bag
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup ammonia
  • Large handful of dirt
  • 5 pounds dry ice
  • Can of root beer
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • Large bowl
  • Garbage bag
  • Hair dryer
  • Hammer
  • Gloves
  • Wooden or metal spoon

Procedure: CAUTION! Remember that for safety, this activity needs to be done in a ventilated area (or outdoors) in the presence of an adult! Make sure to wear you safety goggles!!

  1. Take your large bowl and line with a garbage bag.
  2. Inside the bowl lined with the garbage bag, mix the molasses, root beer, ammonia, water and dirt.
  3. Wearing gloves use the hammer to break your dry ice into smaller pieces.
  4. Pour the dry ice into your wet mixture.
  5. Quickly grab the edges of the bag and use it to form your ball or comet. CONTINUE WEARING THE GLOVES WHILE YOU ARE DOING THIS!!
  6. Use the garbage bag to take your comet out of the bowl, and lay it out on a flat surface.
  7. Take your hair dryer, turn it on, and aim it at the comet. You should be able to see the gases pointing away from the comet, forming the tail. DID YOU KNOW THAT THE HAIR DRYER REPRESENTS THE SUN AND SOLAR WIND? This is why a comet’s tail always points away from the sun. The tail only becomes visible when a comet nears the sun. The heat of the sun causes the ice in the comet to melt allowing us to can see the gases vapors as a tail.
  8. Every 10-15 min use your senses to record, in word or picture, all changes that take place.

Interactive comet activity:
This Web site has a great activity called "Make a Comet".

Meteorites Mess

Materials:

  • Pie plate
  • Flour
  • fruit punch drink powder
  • one potato or rock (ranging from small to medium)
  • one sheet of paper
  • Meter stick
  • Newspapers

Procedure:

  1. Layer the flour one inch deep into the pie plate. Cover the surface with one ounce of fruit punch powder.
  2. Put the pie plate on the ground with newspapers underneath it.
  3. From the height of one meter, drop the potato or the rock on to the pie plate.
  4. Remove the potato or the rock.

Analysis:
Measure, draw, and record the diameter, the depth, and the distance from the crater the flour was spread. Compare the results of your investigation with other students' results.

utah state board of education This Sci-ber Text was developed by the Utah State Board of Education and Utah educators.