Construct a Comet

Guide your students to create their own model of a comet with the great activity from National Geographic! Using dry ice and other common household items, your students will observe the structure of a comet and explore its interactions with the sun and solar wind.

In this activity, students will create a model of a comet using dry ice and analyze the relationship between comets and solar winds.

Grade(s): 6-8

Introduction to the Activity

National Geographic: Construct a Comet

Students will create a hands-on model of a comet using dry ice and other household materials in this activity by National Geographic. They will then model the effects of solar wind on comets by completing a demonstration in class. This activity not only engages in model building, but also gives students the opportunity to explore the interactions between two phenomena.

National Geographic is consistently a great resource for these kinds of hands-on activities, and this activity they’ve created is no different!

Conceptual Background

Comets are small bodies made of rock and ice that orbit the sun in our solar system. The paths that comets take are different from the orbits of the other planets. They swing very far and close to the sun in each orbit and this particular path creates the wispy tail that we observe. It is not known exactly how many comets circle the sun, but scientists estimate that there are likely billions.

Image result for comet

When a comet approaches the sun, the heat warms the ice and causes it to sublimate (when solid changes directly to a gas) and releases the ice in the form of steam. This spews gas and dust into a giant glowing head larger than planets. The dust and gas formed in this process stretch away from the sun for millions of miles.

NGSS Connections

Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system.

Disciplinary Core Ideas:

ESS1.A: The Universe and Its Stars

  • Earth and its solar system are part of the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of many galaxies in the universe.

ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System

  • The solar system consists of the sun and a collection of objects, including planets, their moons, and asteroids that are held in orbit around the sun by its gravitational pull on them.
  • The solar system appears to have formed from a disk of dust and gas, drawn together by gravity.

 

Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System

  • The solar system consists of the sun and a collection of objects, including planets, their moons, and asteroids that are held in orbit around the sun by its gravitational pull on them.

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