This last two weeks in science lab we’ve been talking about stars, planets and moons. Here’s a link that let’s us simulate looking down on the solar system, where we can watch the orbital motions of the planets and their moons. Be sure to look at some of the planetary systems. How many moons have been discovered around Jupiter? Saturn? What’s with the names of some of these moons, is there a pattern? Pluto’s orbit does actually cross Neptune’s orbit, becoming closer to the Sun for a number of years. Why don’t they collide?
You’ll start out with a view of the whole solar system. You’ll be able to see the outer planets, plus the dwarf planet Pluto. Zoom in with the controls at the bottom right. Select a specific planet from the list at the top left to see its moons!
Many students knew about Pluto’s demotion to dwarf planet status. Some were unhappy about this demotion! Here’s the astronomical definition of a planet:
- is in orbit around the Sun,
- is big enough to be a nearly round shape, and
- has “cleared the neighborhood,” meaning no other astronomical bodies around its orbit.
Did you know that there are four other dwarf planets besides Pluto?