Virtual Field Trip
We have briefly discussed in class the formation of stars, how they are formed from gas and dust that was once part of an older star. We shall now take a look at our own “star system”, our solar system. Let’s get a quick look the major bodies in the system before we examine some of them individually, click here. 1. Which view was your favorite? Why? Next let’s review how they came to be, click here for an explanation. Click on the link in the text that says, “spin” and then on the picture on that page. 2. What is a “protostar” and what are “planetesimals”? 3. What is the “solar wind”?
Next let’s look at some of the planets individually. Our closest neighbor planet is Mars, let’s look closer at it click here. 4. Which view is your favorite? Mars geology has been studied pretty closely; a lot of the processes there are the same as processes here, for a good overview of Mars’ geology click here. 5. What are Aeolian processes? 6. What is the largest volcano on Mars? Occasionally, a meteorite will crash into Mars with enough force to blast pieces of Mars rock up through its thin atmosphere and into space. Those pieces of Mars rock get pulled toward Earth by gravity and become meteorites here. We actually have pieces of Mars that have landed on Earth. If you would like to see some of them click here. 7. What do they look like to you? The best all around source for Mars info is still NASA. Click here for their Mars website.
Let’s move on to our other close neighbor Venus. Venus is the third brightest object in the sky right behind to the Sun and the Moon. Since it is so bright it was thought to be especially beautiful. So it was named for the Roman goddess of beauty and love. Click here to visit Venus. 8. Name the most interesting thing you learned at the last website. Venus is not really a nice place though. Click here and read a bit about the planet. 9. What are the surface conditions like? Be specific!
The asteroid belt lies between Mars and Jupiter. Click here for some good information. 10. Where did the asteroids come from? 11. Name one other interesting thing that you didn’t know about the asteroid belt. There is one asteroid large enough to be considered a dwarf planet. It’s called Ceres. Someday, perhaps in your lifetime, you may see humanity begin to mine some of the asteroids for valuable ores and minerals.
Jupiter is the largest of the planets and from its orbit outward the planets begin to change in their general composition. These next planets are called the “gas giants” or the “outer planets”. Gas giants are very different from rocky planets like Earth, Mars, Mercury and Venus; Jupiter probably has no solid parts at all. Click here for Jupiter. 12. What are the Galilean moons, and what is unique about each of them? 13. How much more massive is Jupiter that Earth? Click here to explore Jupiter’s moons. 14. Describe Io and Europa.
Saturn is so beautiful that we have to stop and look. The recent Cassini Space Probe has given us some fantastic new pictures. Saturn isn’t very dense. If it were placed in a big enough swimming pool it would float. But it’s moons, like Jupiter’s, are much more dense. The Cassini Space Probe dropped a lander probe onto Saturn’s largest moon Titan. Click here to see a picture of the surface of one of Saturn’s moons. Now stop and think we humans put a machine on the moon of Saturn to take pictures and gather information. 15. When was Cassini launched? 16. When did it arrive at Saturn? 17. Did you find a picture you especially liked? Why or why not?
Uranus and Neptune are similar in that the both have atmospheres rich in methane. This is what gives them their characteristic blue/green color. 18. In the last two links please find a picture you especially like and tell me what it is and why you like it.
The last section of our solar system begins just past the orbit of Neptune. Where we can find Pluto and the other distant “dwarf planets” the Kuiper Belt, and the Oort Cloud. There are a variety of objects in this region including the dwarf planet that caused all the ruckus: Eris. 19. What are Eris’ and Pluto’s moons’ names? 20. What was your favorite part of the field trip? Why?