Solar System Astronomy

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Background Information: 

Brief Description: Mix art and science as you create your own colour images from raw pictures taken by spacecraft and landers across the solar system.

How does the lesson relate to STEAM education: Students will use mathematics as they consider the size and scale of planets in the solar system. They will explore images of planets and moons through the elements of art to better understand geological processes. Students will appreciate the technology of cameras used on spacecraft.

Age Range: 12 to 16

Didactical Hours: up to 3 by 45 min sessions

Learning objectives: The students will:
- calculate scales and distances in the solar system to make their own model.
- apply the elements of art to interpret planetary geologic features.
- understand how colour images can be made from grey scale images and apply this to make their own images.

Relation to the Big Ideas of Science:

Forces > Forces and motion > Fluids and gases in motion: Jupiter’s clouds are made of many different gases, constantly in motion.

Forces > Forces and motion > Impacts: The surface of the terrestrial planets and moons have been altered by impacts, creating craters.

Universe > Earth and the solar system > Earth and other planets &  Universe > Earth's place in the universe, Celestial objects > Moons, comets and asteroids: we can discover more about the contents of our solar system by carefully studying the images that have been taken by telescopes and spacecraft cameras.

Universe > The history of our universe > Scales of our universe: Our solar system is enormous, but most pictures of it minimise the distance between the planets, or make the planets much bigger than they really are.
Earth > Earth materials and structure > Internal structure, Tectonic plates and large scale system interactions: Our Earth’s surface changes due to plate tectonics. Tectonic features are also seen on other planets in the solar system.


The Polar Star consortium is grateful for the input of the Star Advisors, who helped to choose the star topics. We would like to warmly thank Star Advisors who provided valuable ideas, materials and feedback for this particular activity: Christian Collette, Paula Galvin, Maire Goggin, and M Conceição Manaia.


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POLAR STAR aims to bring together state-of-the-art learning pedagogies and combine them with exciting activities that focus on contemporary science, thus helping teachers to introduce STEAM successfully in their class. At the same time the project will focus on the development of students’ key skills and competences as well as deepening their knowledge of fundamental science principles, increasing their appreciation of science and technology and their role in todays’ societies. POLAR STAR aims to offer an open and innovative training framework to teachers of primary and secondary education which will focus on:

  • Promoting the 'Science as a Whole' concept;
  • Promoting a holistic STEM educational approach;
  • Promote the introduction of contemporary science activities in schools;



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