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Summer SAVY 2017, Session 6/Day 2- Planetary Astronomy (Rising 6th/7th)

Posted by on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 in SAVY.

Day 2

Orbits, Gravity, and Math – oh my!
While we started the day with reviewing planetary formation, we worked on orbits and math, then worked with a computer simulations of areas of our Solar System!

For planetary formation, I wanted to be sure students saw some of the evidence astronomers have for different pieces of the formation puzzle and then how those pieces come together. Therefore, we looked at images and some videos as listed here:
– Orion Nebula with protoplanetary disks –
– VIDEO: Planetary Formation: James Webb Space Telescope Science –
– VIDEO: Planetary Formation Process –
– VIDEO: Planetary System Formation Simulation (200 AU View) –
– VIDEO: Minute Physics: Why is the Solar System Flat? –
– VIDEO: planet formation –
– VIDEO: Deep Impact Launch – Comet Formation Animation –
– VIDEO: How the Moon was Born –
– VIDEO: NASA | Evolution of the Moon –

After those awesome videos, we then started looking at orbits. We talked about the shapes they can be (circle, ellipse, parabola, hyperbola) and Kepler’s Laws of orbits. Then we did some serious math with Newton’s Version of Kepler’s Third Law which shows how the period of an orbit, the masses of the two objects, and the distance between them are related to each other. We also determined the mass of the Sun just by using Earth’s year and distance from the Sun! Congratulations to all of the students who struggled with their calculator to get the correct mass! Heh, it was everyone struggling but we figured it out!

After lunch, we looked at a computer simulation of gravity and orbits ( ). Students did a handout guiding their exploration and then asked their own research questions! While they did turn this in to me, I’ll be handing it back after I take a look at them. Students enjoyed crashing Earth into the Sun and flinging Earth away and several other scenarios 🙂

Then we looked at stars as stars are the hosts of planets astronomers are interested in (because we’re all interested in finding other Earths, right?). Stars are also the source of all elements in our bodies that aren’t hydrogen and helium. We are star stuff! With that exciting thought, we look forward to tomorrow!

Dr. G

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