1. Compare ways of investigating weather on Earth and on other planets in our solar system.

Explain to students that scientists and meteorologists investigate weather on Earth in several ways:

  • They measure weather with thermometers and other tools.
  • They view the weather from satellites above Earth’s atmosphere.
  • They use photography and video to capture images of major weather events.

Ask: What is weather like on other planets? How do you think scientists investigate weather on other planets? Have students draw their ideas about what weather is like on other planets and how scientists investigate it. Then tell students that they will explore the answers to these questions in this activity.

2. View and discuss the video “Solar System 101.”
Show students the National Geographic video “Solar System 101.” Ask students what types of information about the planets might help us understand what the environments are like on each planet. Write students’ ideas on the board. Elicit responses such as temperature, winds, presence of water or ice, or whether a planet is made of gas or rock/soil. For each characteristic, ask: What might this tell us about the weather on that planet?

3. Have students complete a worksheet to analyze weather conditions in our solar system.
Distribute copies of the handout Solar System Environments to each student. Read aloud the directions and answer any questions students may have. Review any vocabulary that is new to students, such as math terms minimum, maximum, and mean and science terms wind speed, moons, gaseous, and rocky. Help students practice using the information in the chart by looking for the hottest planet or the planet with the highest wind speed. Then distribute copies of the worksheet Planet Investigation. Have students work in pairs or small groups to complete the worksheet. Emphasize that in worksheet questions six and seven, there are no right answers. Help students use information from the handout to inspire their ideas. Make sure students understand that scientists still ask questions and seek more information about the planets in our solar system—even if that planet has been explored already.

Informal Assessment

Ask students to explain which planets they think may be good for weather study and why. Then have them imagine they are scientists studying solar system weather, and have students each write a question they would want to answer about wild weather on another planet or dwarf planet.

Extending the Learning

You can use this series of activities to prepare students to design their own space probe. If so, let students know that each of these activities is leading to that goal. Encourage them to think of ideas for their probe as they move through the activities.

Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • describe weather conditions on other planets in our solar system

Teaching Approach

  • Learning-for-use

Teaching Methods

  • Brainstorming
  • Discussions
  • Multimedia instruction
  • Visual instruction

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

  • Critical Thinking Skills
    • Analyzing
    • Understanding

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Science Education Standards

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Drawing paper
  • Pencils
  • Pens

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector, Speakers
  • Plug-Ins: Flash

Physical Space

  • Classroom

Grouping

  • Large-group instruction

Other Notes

In 2006, the status of Pluto was changed from a planet to a dwarf planet. A dwarf planet is not gravitationally dominant. It shares orbital space with other bodies of similar sizes.

Background Information

Scientists and astronomers are interested in learning more about our solar system. Before exploration takes place, even via remote sensing by probes or satellites, scientists and engineers must consider environmental conditions such as weather. They must design equipment that can handle extremes of temperature, wind, and other factors.

Prior Knowledge

  • planets in our solar system

Vocabulary

mean
Noun

mathematical value between the two extremes of a set of numbers. Also called the average.

meteorologist
Noun

person who studies patterns and changes in Earth's atmosphere.

Noun

natural satellite of a planet.

Noun

large, spherical celestial body that regularly rotates around a star.

satellite
Noun

object that orbits around something else. Satellites can be natural, like moons, or artificial.

solar system
Noun

the sun and the planets, asteroids, comets, and other bodies that orbit around it.

space probe
Noun

set of scientific instruments and tools launched from Earth to study the atmosphere and composition of space and other planets, moons, or celestial bodies.

Noun

degree of hotness or coldness measured by a thermometer with a numerical scale.

Noun

device that measures temperature.

weather
Noun

state of the atmosphere, including temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, humidity, precipitation, and cloudiness.

wind speed
Noun

force and velocity of wind.

Websites

Funder