real science for today's homeschooler

Don’t Miss the Supermoon!

Don't Miss the Supermoon!

On November 14-15, 2016 we’ll experience a “Super Moon.” A full moon that is bigger and brighter than usual because the moon will actually be about 400,000 kilometers closer to Earth than normal. The last Super Moon occurred in 1948 and you’ll have to wait until 2034 for the next one. So, take your children outside tonight so they can experience their first Super Moon! For more information about the phenomenon, go here.

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Take the Pluto Survey!

Take the Pluto Survey!

We all remember learning the nine planets of the solar system when we were in school. And just like that, there were only eight! Poor Pluto! In 2006 the IAU (International Astronomical Union) demoted Pluto to nothing more than a “dwarf planet” when another rocky body, similar to Pluto, was discovered beyond Neptune.

But, on September 18 Harvard University hosted a debate about the controversial classification of Pluto and it seems quite a case was made to reinstate Pluto back to its former planet status. Although you may have heard rumors that Pluto is now a planet again, the debate was informal and no official decision has been made. The IAU meets again in Honolulu, Hawaii in August, 2015 and no official change will be made before then, at the earliest. Still, the Harvard debate has stirred up quite a bit of emotions concerning Pluto!

I was very surprised to find that my students have very strong opinions concerning the fate of Pluto, with some believing it should be reinstated as the ninth planet of our solar system and some not. Which got me thinking . . . what a great topic to get kids involved in current events in science! So, I want to challenge you to get your kids involved. Encourage them to do some research on the pros and cons of classifying Pluto as a planet and come to their own decision. Once they have, please have them share their opinion through this one question survey. I’ll share the results of the survey when it looks like a clear winner has emerged! (The survey is completely anonymous and no information is collected other than the answer to the one survey question!)

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How much would you weigh on different planets?

How much would you weigh on different planets?

What is weight?

Your weight would be very different if you lived on another planet. Assuming your size didn’t change, why would your weight change? To understand this, you have to know what the term “weight” really means.

A term that’s often confused with weight is “mass.” Mass is the amount of matter (stuff) that something is made of. Your mass wouldn’t change no matter what planet you happened to be standing on. But “weight” is not the same as mass.

Weight is a measure of the force with which gravity pulls down on your mass. So, if gravity changes, so does your weight! The gravity of a planet is determined by the size (mass) of the planet. Heavier planets exert more gravitational force than lighter planets.

 What would you weigh if you visited a different planet?

To calculate your weight on different planets, multiply your weight on Earth in pounds by the “gravitation factor” in the chart below. The Moon is also included.

Celestial

Body

Gravitation

Factor

Your

Weight

Mercury

0.38

Venus

0.91

Moon

0.17

Mars

0.38

Jupiter

2.54

Saturn

1.08

Uranus

0.91

Neptune

1.19

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How old are you on a different planet?

How old are you on a different planet?

What is a year?

We measure age in years. A year is a unit of time equal to the number of days it takes the planet to travel all the way around the Sun and return to its same location along its orbit.

Earth takes 365.25 days to make a trip around the sun, so our calendar year is usually 365 days. Once every four years, one day is added to the calendar at the end of February to account for the 0.25 day each year. That’s why we have a “leap year” every four years.

If you lived on another planet, a year would not be 365 days because each planet takes a different amount of time to make a trip around the Sun, based mainly on its distance from the Sun. (The farther away from the Sun, the larger the orbit and the longer it takes to go around the Sun.) Assuming you still referred to a “year” as one trip around the Sun, your age in years would be very different from what it is on Earth.

 How many years old would you be on different planets?

To calculate your age on different planets, first, divide your age by 365.25. Then multiply that answer by the number of days in the “year” of each planet. You can find that information in the table below:

Planet

Days in Year

Your Age

Mercury

87.97

Venus

224.70

Mars

686.67

Jupiter

4331.87

Saturn

10760.27

Uranus

30604.65

Neptune

60189.48

 

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