Astronomy Kit

How do we know what we know about the solar system? Explore the planet Mars and discover how our knowledge about this red planet has been built over time. Students will start by observing the movement of a tiny red dot across the constellations, then see how telescopes transformed our observations. They will consider the benefits and challenges of using rovers to learn about distant worlds, and find out how careful planning and critical thinking play a role in space exploration. While the kit activities highlight Mars, the concepts students will explore are applicable to the entire solar system.

Materials

  • mini Mars rover
  • Mars terrain mat
  • Mars Launches timeline
  • optical benches, consisting of one meter-long rail, lenses A & B, target screen and light source
  • refracting telescopes and tripods
  • mat showing orbits of Earth and Mars
  • aerial photographs
  • landing target ellipses
  • small images of Mars for telescope observations
  • star field with Mars marker

Activities

Astronomy Kit Activity

Martian Wanderings: Why did ancient observers call Mars a “wandering star”? Through observation, mapping activities and the use of models, students will uncover the reasons for Mars’ mysterious motion in the night sky.

Scoping Out Mars: In this two-part activity, teams will first explore how lenses can be combined to make a simple telescope; then students will use real telescopes to make their own observations of features on the surface of Mars.

How Far to Mars: Using math and modeling, students will explore the motion of planets around the sun and the surprisingly complex answer to the question “how far is Mars from Earth?”

Mars--What's Out There?: What does the surface of Mars look like?  And how do we know?  Students will explore Martian topography through hands-on investigation and by examining aerial photographs.

So You Want To Be a Rover Driver?: Students will work in teams to maneuver a robotic mini-rover, learning about the careful planning, teamwork, and patience needed to explore distant planets.

Next Generation Science Standards

Click the link below to view a list of connections to the NGSS and other standards.

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