Header Bar Graphic
Astronaut ImageArchives HeaderBoy Image

TabHomepage ButtonWhat is NASA Quest ButtonSpacerCalendar of Events ButtonWhat is an Event ButtonHow do I Participate Button
SpacerBios and Journals ButtonSpacerPics, Flicks and Facts ButtonArchived Events ButtonQ and A ButtonNews Button
SpacerEducators and Parents ButtonSpacer
Highlight Graphic
Sitemap ButtonSearch ButtonContact Button

Hubble Space Telescope Banner

Live from the Hubble Space Telescope


PART 1: Ordering print materials

PART 2: Overview of Actvitities 1A-1C

PART 3: Activity 1A: Planet Tours, Inc.

PART 4: Activity 1B: Painting planets

PART 5: Activity 1C: The great student solar system model

STEP TWO: Print Curriculum Materials

The Teacher's Kit will be ready for distribution by February 15th. If you have not yet ordered your copy, send a check, money order, or purchase order for $10.00 per kit, made payable to Passport to Knowledge and send to:

Passport to Knowledge
Live From the Hubble Space Telescope
P.O. Box 1502
Summit, NJ 07902-1502

Indicate your full name, mailing address, school and grade level, number of students participating, and any other key information you would like to share.

The Teacher's Kit includes: 48 page teacher's guide, plus co-packaged materials NASA Space Based Astronomy, HST lithos, HST poster, 3 color filters, 1 diffraction grating, heat-sensitive paper, and UV sensitive beads.

Please note that only the first three OPENING Activities are included in this message.

Be sure to review Program 101, "The Great Debate" which aired November 9, 1995 which served as an introduction to the entire project and announces the on-line discussion which led to a December 1995 consensus about which planets to observe. The four astronomers who served as "Planet Advocates" (Reta Beebe for Jupiter, Marc Buie for Pluto, Heidi Hammel for Neptune, and Carolyn Porco for Uranus) each presented reasons for using HST orbits for "their" planet, and summarized key scientific goals which could be achieved. Presenter Bill Gutsch reviewed the history of the Hubble Space Telescope and provided a project timeline.

The first three activities in the Teacher's Guide are OPENING ACTIVITIES 1A-1C. These three activities will help create the "anticipatory set" and address the following EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES:

**Students will be able to describe the scale and structure of our solar system, in terms of distances between the planets, and compare and contrast their relative sizes, distinctive appearance and characteristics, and differentiate between "terrestrial" and gaseous bodies.

**Students will develop collaborative learning and research skills to create multimedia reports illustrating the complexity and diversity of our solar system.


Objective: Working in collaborative teams, students will demonstrate the ability to use appropriate research, writing and graphic presentation skills to create a travel brochure or travel poster for a specific location in our solar system.

Interdisciplinary Connections: Science, English, Computers, Art (design), Social Studies (Marketing)

Ask students to describe their favorite summer vacation. Take out a map of your state, America or another country, and have students place pins to show where they've traveled. Ask them what made their adventure special, and what features of the location they most remember. Ask them where they'd like to go if they could go anywhere in the world. Ask them where they'd like to go if they could go anywhere in the solar system!

Explain to students that for this Activity, they are going to imagine that it's not 1996 but rather far in the future. Tourist travel to the planets is just becoming possible and they are working for the first interplanetary travel agency, "Planet Tours, Inc." Their task is to research the wonders of the solar system (especially those of the LHST target planets) and create a series of brochures or travel posters designed to attract the first space tourists.

*Advertisements from Sunday newspaper or travel magazines, and/or brochures and posters collected from area travel agencies
*Appropriate art supplies, texts,
*Back issues of astronomy and science magazines with space imagery, or computers with scanners and graphics software

Divide the class into conveniently-sized teams, who will each work on a different solar system destination. Have students collect brochures, travel posters and other material advertising exotic destinations. Challenge them to create similar brochures and travel posters for the most exotic ports of call in the solar system. What wonders of Mercury or Mars do they feel would be most appealing? What adventures for the well-equipped adventurer -- ballooning on Jupiter? Sulfur-surfing on Io? What creature comforts required to tame the chill of Mars, the heat of Venus? What incredible sights on Neptune or Pluto, Triton or Charon?

Have student teams discuss what factors make some posters and brochures more compelling than others. What roles do the words and the pictures play, and how do they complement each other? How is the writing they find in a travel brochure different from that which they find in a book, or on the front page of a newspaper, or in a magazine? Have students develop a list of "rules" for a successful travel poster or brochure

Turn students' attention skyward. Help students research the necessary factual information about our neighboring worlds and to obtain the pictures they need from books, magazines, CD-ROMs or the Internet . Challenge them to find the most exciting sites and sights offered by their chosen planet or its moons -- from Vallis Marineris, a Grand Canyon on Mars that would stretch across the entire United States, to sheer cliffs of ice on Uranus' satellite, Miranda, 8 miles high. What resort attractions might 21st century technology bring? A golf course on the moon? Snow machines creating a long downhill ski run from a mighty Martian volcano?

Have students make rough pencil sketches of their posters or brochures. Through team discussion, encourage them to edit and refine. Then, have them compose the finished product before making an oral presentation to the entire class and come prepared to respond to charges of false advertising or bad science!

Lead a class discussion about what might someday be feasible, and what are likely to remain fantasies. (Be somewhat cautious about skepticism: in the late 19th century, eminent scientists were still saying heavier-than-air flight was an utter impossibility.)

Give students an overall advertising budget for "Planet Tours, Inc." for a one month advertising campaign, and challenge students to develop a marketing plan. If a student has a relative who's a travel or advertising professional, they might be invited to give a talk before the class.

Have them make their presentations to another class (perhaps a lower grade, who can then also ask questions, turning your students into teachers) who will vote on their favorite planetary vacation destination. Have the class ask factual questions, and probe for purple prose.

end of Activity 1-A


Objective: Working cooperatively, students will demonstrate the ability to research, plan and build accurately scaled models of the planets, reflecting the known physical characteristics of each.

Interdisciplinary Connection: Science, Math, Art

Ask your students to close their eyes and have several of them describe the planets of our solar system. Challenge them to recall as much detail as possible. Ask other students to describe the sizes of the various planets relative to each other.

Explain that you are going to explore our solar system by creating visually-accurate scale models of all of the planets, representing some of what's most currently known about them.

*Appropriately-sized spheres or balls, obtained from craft stores, art supply houses or other sources (hint: with the Coach's permission, search the gym for punctured sports equipment of the right relative dimensions: see chart)
*Paints (and brushes) or other coloring tools (one teacher suggests covering the balls with masking tape, then using colored markers rather than paint)
*Sheets of clear plastic, paper plates or sheets of stiff cardboard (to serve as planetary rings for the 4 planets that have them)
*Ruler or measuring tape
*Paper and marking pens

Divide the class into teams of 2-3 students, and have each team arrive at a choice of planet to create and color. Copy and distribute Table 1-B-1 as a reference for the actual sizes of the planets and to corresponding sizes (in inches or cm). Help students determine the relative size of their planet, ensuring all are working on the same scale. If they are going to show the ring systems as well, also supply Table 1-B-2. Once students agree on the size planets they will make, assign each team the task of acquiring an object of the right dimensions.


Planet		Diameter	Diameter	If earth was 1 inch (cm)
		in Miles	in Kilometers				
Mercury		3,032		4,878		0.38 (a little more than 1/3)
Venus		7,523		12,104		0.95  (about like earth)
Earth		7,928		12,756		1.00
Mars		4,218		6,787		0.53  (about 1/2 earth)
Jupiter		88,863		142,980		11.2
Saturn		74,916		120,540		9.5
Uranus		31,771		51,120		4.0
Neptune		30,783		49,530		3.9  (about like Uranus)
Pluto		1,430		2,300		0.18   (about 1/2 Mercury)


Planet		Diameter of Rings 		If Earth is 1 inch (cm)	
                Inner Edge                      Outer Edge

Jupiter		9.6				10.1
Saturn		11.6				21.4
Uranus		6.6				8.1
Neptune		8.9				11.0

Have students research the appearance of each of the planets using appropriate books, magazines, CD-ROMs, Internet pages or other sources (see MultiMedia Resources for suggestions.) Challenge students to identify the most important surface or atmospheric characteristics of each planet, and to think about ways in which these features can be represented on their models.

As they research their planet, have them list its special characteristics, as an Artist's Think Pad, recording its color or colors, surface or atmospheric features, whether it has rings and, if so, are they light or dark? Have students use this as a guide to decide what coloring or painting techniques they'll need to use to create their model. How will they construct and assemble the giant planets' ring systems? (Remember Neptune's strange ring arcs: for more, see LHST program 101.)

If you're not sure about colors and textures, consult with an art teacher or local art supply store for the appropriate kind of paint to use with the materials chosen to serve as the planets. (Consider whether larger planets should have more artists?) When all the models have been painted, discuss where they can be displayed. Perhaps you'll choose the ceiling of the classroom or a school hallway (check with fire and other safety regulations!), or across the stage in the auditorium for a special assembly for other students, reporting on the entire Live from Hubble project when it's completed. Have students make a sign for each planet listing its name, size and other key information. (See Activity 1-C)

If you want to add the sun to your model of the solar system, how big a ball would you have to find? (The sun is 865,000 miles [1,392,000 kilometers] in diameter, or about 109 times the diameter of earth.) Have students research whether there is a ball, or sphere, around your school that's this large? (Any water spheres in your area that would adequately fill the Sun's shoes?) Where? Could they paint a picture of the sun this large to go with their planets? How big would it be? Where would you place it?

As a math activity, using ratios and proportions, have older students calculate the planets' relative sizes, defining Jupiter (instead of Earth, as in the table above) as "1", and all other planets scaled accordingly.

If resources permit, (and the drama department or tech. crew has some stage lighting to loan!) students may wish to light their planet models dramatically -- after all, the Sun is just one big light! -- in a darkened room and video tape "close encounters" with their planet, as if their video camera were a spacecraft like the twin Voyagers, or Galileo, slowly flying past (see LHST 101, "The Great Planet Debate" for JPL's great computer graphics representations of the Voyagers' encounters with Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus. Remember Galileo will be orbiting Jupiter and its moons for the next 2 years.)

As another math expansion, challenge students to calculate how far apart the planets would have to be from each other given the size scale of the planets that they adopted. Use the table of distances provided in Activity 1-C. Whether you use that Activity or not, they'll soon see that our solar system is a very large and empty place!

At the conclusion of Live from the Hubble Space Telescope, have students revisit their models of the planets we'll be studying (Neptune, Pluto and Jupiter) and see what "new" information they now have. As a writing activity, how would they update the textbooks or other sources they consulted? Perhaps you might even submit their reports to your text's publisher as input to their next revision!

Have students keep a journal as they create their model. What did they do, and discover, each day? What were the easiest, most fun parts of the project? What parts were more difficult or challenging? If another class were going to do this same project next year, what pointers would they give them? Consider keeping a photo-journal or video diary of their progress. Taking a picture of their model each day would provide a timelapse record of how it gradually changed into a planet. Paste such pictures into their journal entries for each day: think how in years to come, you'll also be able to paste video into your students' Web pages!

end of Activity 1-B


Objective: Students will demonstrate the ability to convert numerical distances in our solar system and create a playground sized replica using human bodies to represent the planets.

Interdisciplinary Connection: Science, Math

Ask students to describe how the previous activity helped them understand the relative sizes of the planets. Tell them they haven't seen anything yet. Now they are going to calculate and show just how far apart they are.

*10 white poster boards (Approximately 2 x 3 feet in size)
*thick black marking pen, piece of brightly colored yarn,
*rope (as long as you wish to make your "A.U." -- see below)

Tell students that they are going to measure out distances to the various planets, and that some of them will "become" the planets, in an accurately-scaled representation of their correct distance from the Sun. Pass out copies of Table 1-C, but cover the numbers in the last column before making copies. Point out the distances in miles or kilometers: ask them if they have their walking shoes ready!

Explain that to build this model, the class is going to have to scale down the distances involved to numbers that can be dealt with easily. Look at Table 1-C with them. Point out that if we try to deal with distances to the planets in either miles and kilometers, we have to work with very big numbers. (Ask them if we could talk about distances to major cities around the world in inches? Ask them why we don't.) With this in mind, introduce them to a useful new unit of distance, the Astronomical Unit, which is the distance of the Earth from the Sun, just under 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers. This will become our new "yardstick". As a math exercise, have them calculate the distances from the Sun to all the planets in A.U's, and them confirm their answers with the right-hand column of numbers in the table. Next, have them calculate the distance in A.U's of each planet from its neighbor. Point out that now, when trying to represent the solar system, instead of dealing with numbers in the hundreds of millions, at most, we only have to worry about numbers up to about 40.

Brainstorm where the class will create its Great Student Solar System. (Hint: Pick a space long enough to be impressive, and fun like a playground or athletic field.) Next, choose a reasonable length for the A.U. in your model. (Hint: Pre-measure the total length of the area likely to be selected for the model and divide this length by 40. This will mean that if the Sun is at one end of the space, Pluto will just neatly fit at the other, with all the other planets spaced out [sic] in between.)

Let students chose to be the different planets and the Sun. If you are preparing this Activity one day and making the model the next, suggest that they wear clothing appropriately-colored for their celestial object. (Mars is a nice, fashionable, rust-color, but Jupiter might require something tie-died, borrowed from Mom or Dad.) Discuss having more than one student be each planet, with the number of students indicating the relative size of the planet (see Activity 1-B) Have students make posters with the names of their celestial object in large letters, with a picture, created by them, or found in a magazine (being sure only to use ones that are ok to cannibalize!)

To construct your model, go to the designated place with students, posters, and the piece of brightly-colored yarn cut to the length of A.U. chosen for your model. Start at the Sun and place that student in position. Select two or three students as Official Solar System Measurers (OSSM's). With A.U. yarn in hand, have then measure off the correct distance to each planet, using the numbers they have calculated. As the OSSMs reach the correct position for each planet, have the student who will represent that planet take their place until the whole solar system is complete. Then, take a few pictures of your Great Human Solar System Model and return to class for discussion. (Live from the Stratosphere, program 105, contains a similar Activity, presented by HST Guide author Bill Gutsch, done live on-camera at NASA Ames in an aircraft hangar: it might help to review that tape if you have it.)

See also Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot for a discussion of how when Voyager left our solar system, beyond the orbit of Neptune, it turned to take a farewell snapshot which emphasized just how small our Earth was against the huge dimensions of our solar system: think about doing something rather the same, looking out from the Sun to distant Pluto, and vice versa.

When the students reassemble, discuss what they discovered about how the planets were spaced. Most will probably be surprised to see how relatively close together the first four planets are, crowded around the sun, but how vastly spread-out are the planets after Mars.

Ask the students who represented each planet to work with a small team of other students to figure out how large each of their planets would be, if the actual solar system were really as small as the model you just created. Use Table 1-B, and help them make scale cross-references as necessary. As follow-up to Activity 1-B, "Painting Planets", ask them to figure out the distance their planet would be from the Sun if you used planets of that size in your model.
As a math and social studies activity, using local maps, have them figure out where in your community their models would need to be, if they used this larger scale, and the planets were properly distanced from your school, which would represent the Sun. See if, as a "Science Expo", project wrap-up, or year-end activity, you could distribute planet models make by the students around your town at the right distances in public buildings for everyone to see. Invite the press, district administration, and parents to see math, astronomy, science and art in cooperative action!

Table 1-C            Distances of the Planets from the Sun

Planet			Miles			Kilometers		A.U.

Mercury			35,985,000		57,900,000		0.39

Venus			67,247,000		108,200,000		0.72

Earth			92,977,000		149,600,000		1.00

Mars			141,641,000		227,900,000		1.52

Jupiter			483,717,000		778,300,000		5.20

Saturn			885,954,000		1,425,500,000		9.53

Uranus			1,788,129,000		2,877,100,000		19.23

Neptune			2,801,802,000		4,508,100,000		30.14

Pluto			3,701,057,000		5,955,000,000		39.81

Credits and Contacts

Footer Bar Graphic
SpacerSpace IconAerospace IconAstrobiology IconWomen of NASA IconSpacer
Footer Info