|Released: January 18, 2009|
Retired: January 19, 2009
With the exception of the two dominant features of the sky, the sun and the moon, most the solar system blends in with the other lights in the night sky. As a result, the planets need magnification to distinguish them clearly from the stars. The solar system includes the sun at the center of the system orbited by the planets, dwarf planets, more than 61 moons, a belt of asteroids, meteors, comets and assorted rocks and gas. On today's quest, we will explore some of the history of the solar system and information about our fellow planets, our closest neighbors in the galaxy.
|1000 Credits||Released: May 22, 2008|
|Holographic Solar System Projector||Quest Prize||Solar System Quest||Released: January 18, 2009|
Retired: January 19, 2009
1. The Copernican theory was published in a book titled "On the Revolutions of Heavenly bodies." This book states that the earth turns on its axis and goes around the sun. Galileo, a brilliant physicist, mathematician and astronomer believed that Copernicus was correct, however, the Church banned any book that supported Copernicus' work. Galileo increased the magnification of the early telescope which enabled him to see the phases of Venus. This allowed him to prove through observation, the theory presented by Copernicus, that the earth orbited the sun. The church didn't allow Galileo to teach Copernicus's "heretical" beliefs and in 1634, confined him to his house. How long was Galileo under house arrest?
- For the remainder of his life
2. Showing the phases of Venus was an important step in confirming that Copernicus's theory was correct. In addition, Galileo discovered sunspots and the four largest satellites of Jupiter. The moons were named the Galilean moons after his discovery. Despite the overwhelming oppression from the church during Galileo's lifetime, the word was out on the Copernican theory and as a result, Galileo is considered to be the "father of modern observational astronomy." Go to the garden outside your colonial room and finish these words that Galileo wrote about his opinion on the critical reception of his work "Letters on Sunspots". Finish the quote "The material contained therein...", by saying: "ought to have opened the minds eye"
3. The sun is orbited by nine planets. They are (in order starting from the sun) Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter (the largest planet in the Solar System), Saturn (the planet with orbiting rings), Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. There is also an asteroid belt. These are minor planets which are composed of rock and metal. All the planets follow mostly circular orbits. Where is the asteroid belt located?
- Between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter
4. There are some basic differences between the planets whose orbits are close to the sun (the inner planets) and the ones which orbit further from the sun (the outer planets). The inner planets which consist of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are composed primarily of rock and either lack a moon, or have very few. The outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are very large, primarily gaseous in composition and have rings or multiple moons. Pluto is the exception to this and is small and rocky with three moons, one large and two small. Go to the front of the zoo and say this quote from H.G. Wells, "First this little planet and all its winds and ways."
5. The motion of the sun as observed from the surface of the earth is referred to as the ecliptic. The ecliptic plane is inclined 23.5 degrees to the plane of the earth's equator. This is a result of the spin of the earth on its axis with respect to the plane of the earth's solar orbit. Through observations of the orbits of the other planets, it has been discovered that most of the planets lie along the ecliptic plane which includes most the objects that orbit the sun. This has been theorized to mean that the entire solar system formed from a disk of material. The inclined axis of the earth's rotation is responsible for the variation in seasons and duration of sunlight received on the earth's surface. Mercury is one of two exceptions to this plane with a deviation from the ecliptic plane of 7 degrees. What planet deviates from the ecliptic plane by 17 degrees?
- The Asteroid Belt
6. In 1978, discovery of Pluto's moon Charon enabled Pluto's mass to be accurately measured for the first time. When Pluto's mass was measured, it was found to be smaller than previously believed and was found to be the smallest planet. Go to the Audubon Wildlife Adventure game tranquil waterfall room and say: "May the sun shine all day long."
7. The smaller objects that orbit around the sun consist of meteoroids, asteroids, comets and dwarf planets. Asteroids are irregular lumps of metal or rock and are much smaller than a planet. They are primarily contained in the asteroid belt found between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The asteroids in the belt are too small to be seen without the aid of binoculars or a telescope. There are hundreds of thousand of asteroids in our solar system. More than 96,000 of them have been numbered and 12,000 of them have been given names. Despite the huge number of asteroids, the asteroid belt is mostly space and would bear little resemblance to the science fiction version of an asteroid belt. What is the name of the largest asteroid in the belt?
8. On the first day of the year in 1801, Giuseppe Piazzi discovered the very first asteroid, Ceres (1032 kilometers across) by accident. At first it was thought to be a comet, but the astronomers at the time agreed it was too small. Sir William Herschel (discoverer of Uranus) thought up the name "asteroid" for the object. This term comes from aster, Latin for star, and -oid which means rock or planet. This was followed by the discovery of Pallas (588 kilometers) and another two asteroids by 1807. No more asteroids were discovered until 1830, but after that time, at least one more has been found annually. Go to the fireworks lobby and finish this quote by Galileo, "All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered;" say the last part: "the point is to discover them."
9. Comets are small celestial objects which orbit the sun. Their name means "stars with hair." They have a tail called a coma or atmosphere which is visible when they are close to the sun. This is caused by the effects of solar radiation on the nucleus of the comet which is a conglomeration of dust, ice and rock. The time it takes for a comet to orbit through a complete path is referred to as its orbital period. These orbital periods can vary enormously from a few years to many hundreds of years. Comets which are "short-period" comets (have orbits of less than 200 years), are believed to come from the Scattered disc, a region beyond Neptune. These comets travel along the ecliptic plane (the same plane as that of the planets). Long period comets do not follow the ecliptic plane, but instead appear all over the sky. From where are "long-period" comets believed to originate?
- The Kupier Belt
- The Oort Cloud
- The sun
- Saturn's rings
10. The Oort cloud has been theorized to be a vast sphere shaped cloud comprised of comets. It is nearly a light year from the sun and is considered to be a reservoir for the long-period comets. Halley's comet is believed to originate in the Oort cloud, however, it is a short period comet. This combination of traits makes it unusual and secures its place as a prototype for a family of comets (called Halley-family comets), which share these characteristics. Go to the front of the Western Mercantile in the Wild West where there is rarely a cloud in the sky, and say a popular quote by the great writer Mark Twain. (Twain was born and died in the years that Halley's comet appeared.) Say, "You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus."
1. For the remainder of his life
2. Go to the Colonial Backyard and say, "ought to have opened the minds eye".
3. Between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter
4. Go to the Zoo Entrance and say, "First this little planet and all its winds and ways."
6. Go to the Tranquil Waterfall and say, "May the sun shine all day long."
8. Go to the 4th of July Fireworks Game and say, "the point is to discover them."
9. The Oort Cloud
10. Go to the Mercantile Shop Front and say, "You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus."