The Solar System


  • The Structure and Scale of the Solar System

    Students learn about the structure and scale of the solar system, using media from NASA, in this interactive self-paced lesson from WGBH. They examine how the solar system is defined, what its components are, consider how to model its dimensions, seek patterns, and look at how we use technology to understand the solar system. This resource is part of the NASA Planetary Sciences Collection.

    Grades: 6-9
  • Surface Features in the Solar System

    Students learn about surface features in the solar system, using media from NASA, in this self-paced interactive lesson from WGBH. They examine how the same kinds of geological processes occur on planetary and lunar surfaces throughout the solar system, and how we can learn about Earth's history through what we can discover about the surfaces of other rocky planets and moons and vice versa. This resource is part of the NASA Planetary Sciences Collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Why Do We Have Seasons?

    Explore what causes seasons on Earth in this interactive produced by WGBH and adapted from NASA materials. The interactive features four cities at different latitudes (New York City, Miami, Singapore, and Melbourne) and provides information about their seasonal conditions at eight points in Earth's orbit. Illustrations show how the Sun's path through the sky and the angle of sunlight hitting Earth's surface vary depending on latitude of a location and Earth's position in its orbit. Text boxes describe the shape of Earth's orbit, how the duration and angle of sunlight influence the energy received at Earth's surface, and seasonal lag. 

    This interactive replaces “Earth in Motion: Seasons,” which was removed because of inaccurate content. This resource is part of the NASA Planetary Sciences Collection

    Grades: 5-13+
  • Tour the Solar System | NASA Planetary Sciences

    Learn about the objects of the solar system in this interactive activity adapted from NASA. Videos and animations introduce basic facts about the Sun and the eight planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Descriptions provide information about each object, such as its size, temperature, composition, surface features, distance, rotation, and orbit. The tour also describes the asteroid belt (including its two largest objects, Ceres and Vesta), the Kuiper belt (including dwarf planets Pluto, Eris, Haumea, and Makemake), comet Halley, the Oort cloud, and the interplanetary medium. This resource is part of the NASA Planetary Sciences Collection.

    Grades: 5-12
  • What Hubble Taught Us About the Planets

    Learn about the Hubble Space Telescope's contributions to our scientific understanding of the solar system in this video from NASA. Hubble has studied all of the planets in the solar system except Mercury. Some of Hubble's notable accomplishments include observations of the climate of Venus, dust storms on Mars, aurorae and the impact of a comet on Jupiter, the rings of Saturn and Uranus, Neptune's immense storms, and dwarf planets such as Pluto, Ceres, and Eris.

    This video is available in both English and Spanish audio, along with corresponding closed captions. This resource is part of the NASA Planetary Sciences Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • How Large Are the Planets? | NASA Planetary Sciences

    Explore the relative sizes of the planets in our solar system in this video adapted from NOVA. Host Neil deGrasse Tyson and planetary scientist Mark Sykes create a scale model that shows the relative sizes of the planets, although it does not depict the distances between them. A giant balloon (8 feet in diameter) represents the Sun while balls of varying size represent the planets. Each of the planets is compared to Pluto, which was once known as the ninth and smallest planet but was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Using Color to Identify Planets | NASA Planetary Sciences

    Discover how scientists compare the reflected red, blue, and green light from planets in our solar system to identify Earthlike planets beyond our solar system more easily. Carolyn Crow, a member of the Deep Impact science team, describes how the amount of green, blue, and red light reflected by planets can be plotted. A diagram compares the color data of the planets and shows that Earth is easily distinguishable by its blue color. Although it will be some time before telescopes can really show what extrasolar planets look like, scientists will be able to identify which planet an exoplanet most resembles by measuring its color.

    Grades: 5-13+
  • Planetary Geology | NASA Planetary Sciences

    Meet NASA scientist Lynn Carter, who studies the geology of planetary surfaces, in this video adapted from NASA's Goddard Space Science Center. Carter describes how scientists learn about Earth by studying other planets and moons. Objects such as the Moon have older surfaces, which serve as a record of early solar system conditions, because they have not been subject to Earth's tectonic and erosive processes. Carter explains various aspects of her work, including image analysis, writing, field work, and the use of radar to penetrate through surfaces to see hidden features on Earth, Mars, and the Moon.

    Grades: 5-12
  • Measuring Distance in the Solar System | NASA Planetary Sciences

    Explore how astronomers and scientists use astronomical units to measure distances in the solar system in this video adapted from NASA. The astronomical unit (au) -- equal to the average distance from Earth to the Sun -- is a convenient unit of measure when talking about distances in the solar system. The video describes how to use proportions to calculate the distance from Mars to the Sun in miles when given its distance in astronomical units. Viewers are asked to estimate the distance in astronomical units to the Voyager 1 spacecraft position, as of 2003, when given its distance in miles and kilometers.

    Grades: 5-8,13+
  • So You Want to Build a Satellite? | NASA Planetary Sciences

    Explore the complex process of designing and building a satellite using the MAVEN mission to Mars as an example. Plans for the MAVEN satellite went through a thorough review of the concept, budget, and risk analysis before proceeding to the next step of the process. Even after the design review is approved, there are many steps to complete before the satellite can be built. Installing something as simple as a bolt involves many steps, including testing, approval, cleaning, and retesting. In addition, spacecraft contain complex electronics, which require an exceptional amount of work to develop and install.

    Grades: 5-13+
  • Voyager: Humanity's Farthest Journey | NASA Planetary Sciences

    In 1977, The Voyager program sent two spacecraft to explore the solar system and travel to interstellar space. In this video from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, learn how Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are now the farthest any spacecraft has traveled from the Sun, and are still making discoveries in the outer reaches of the solar system. As they continue outward beyond the heliosphere, they will traverse interstellar space for a billion years. Each spacecraft carries a golden record with sounds and images from Earth as a message for any future being that may encounter the spacecraft. See the background essay for more about the Voyager program.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Planetary CSI: Crater Science Investigations | NASA Planetary Sciences

    Discover how impact craters can provide insight into the history of the solar system in this video from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Scientists compare impact craters that have changed over time with fresh craters to determine how landforms have evolved. The Linne crater on the Moon is a pristine crater ideal for comparison with other craters. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter gathered data about the shape and structure of the Linne crater that provides scientists with the tools to better understand how weather, climate change, and other factors affect the development of landforms.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Formation of Stars | NASA Planetary Sciences

    Discover how the James Webb Space Telescope will help us better understand solar system formation in this video from NASA. Images from the Hubble Space Telescope show star-forming regions within the Eagle nebula: visible light images show vast clouds of gas and dust, and infrared images provide a glimpse inside the clouds. The James Webb Space Telescope will be optimized for infrared observations and give astronomers an unprecedented view of stellar birth. Computer models show how a giant cloud of gas and dust collapses to form stars and planets; reddish colors indicate thicker dust.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • The Solar System's Boundaries | NASA Planetary Sciences

    Discover what happens at the outer edges of our solar system, where the solar wind interacts with interstellar space. The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) is a mission to study the boundary between the solar system and interstellar space. Voyager 1 and 2 have provided some direct measurements from the boundary region; IBEX collects energetic neutral atoms that come from there to create all-sky maps. Information from the particles (such as energy and direction) show the global structure and dynamic nature of the heliosphere and reveal details that challenge current models of how the solar system interacts with the galaxy.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Solar System Dynamics: Orbits and Kepler's Laws | NASA Planetary Sciences

    Explore how human understanding of planetary orbits has changed throughout history in this video about Kepler's laws of planetary motion. Kepler's three laws of planetary motion accurately describe the elliptical orbits of objects around the Sun. This video presents the story of Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe, who worked together at the turn of the seventeenth century. Animations show the geocentric model of the solar system (in which Earth was believed to be the center) and the heliocentric model (in which the Sun is the center).This video is available in both English and Spanish audio, along with corresponding closed captions.

    Grades: 9-13+

Contributor:
Contributor:
Funder: Funding for this project is provided by NASA.