general interest

A Parents Guide To Teaching Kids About Solar System at HG

solar system

image credit: amazon.com

Even today the vastness of space, including the Milky Way, still holds many mysteries. Although space travel is a reality and astronomers better understand what they see, they are still making new discoveries about the stars and galaxies beyond the Milky Way. For people who are interested in learning about the galaxy and the universe, it is best to start with the basics.

SOLAR SYSTEM 

    • Contains the nine planets and other smaller objects such as minor planets, comets, meteoroids and cosmic dust.
    • The first four inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) are relatively small and resemble the Earth in composition (rocky).
    • The next four planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) are much larger planets and are very gaseous in nature. Pluto is a dwarf planet and is the farthest away from the Sun.
    • All the objects in our Solar System orbit the Sun. It is so big that everything in our Solar System could fit in it many times.
    • Many scientists believe that our Solar System is over 4.6 billion years old.

More Information 

Our Solar System (from NASA)

The Solar System For Kids (from Canisius College)

Exploring our solar system: Planet and Space For Kids (video)

SUN

    • Makes life on our planet possible by giving us great amounts of light and heat.
    • Contains about 98% of the mass of the entire Solar System.
    • Is just a medium-sized star (yellow dwarf). It is about 1.4 million kilometers in diameter. 
    • Is the center of our Solar System. All the planets and other objects orbit around it.
    • Is very gaseous, and made up mostly of hydrogen.
    • Contains darkspots that are known as sunspots.

More information

Ask an Astronomer for kids: The Sun (from IPAC)

Here comes the Sun (Video)

Solar Eclipse for kids (Video)

MERCURY

    • Is about the same size as the Moon. Its mass (weight) is 1/20th that of the Earth. Its diameter is 2/5 that of our planet.
    • Is the closest planet to the Sun. It is about 58 million kilometers from the Sun.
    • Makes one complete orbit around the Sun every 87.97 days.
    • Rotates on its axis very slowly compared to Earth. It completes one rotation in about 58 days and 15 minutes.
    • Is covered with mountains, craters, ridges and valleys.
    • Has no satellites.

More information

Mercury Facts for Kids (from Planetsforkids.com)

The Planet Mercury (from National Weather Service)

Planet Mercury (Video)

VENUS

    • Is the closest planet to the Earth. It is about the same size as the Earth.
    • Is the second planet in order from the Sun. It is about 108 million kilometres from the Sun.
    • Makes one complete orbit around the Sun every 224.7 days.
    • Rotates on its axis more slowly than any other planet. It completes one rotation in about 243 days and 24 minutes.
    • Is the brightest object in our sky, besides the Sun and Moon.
    • Has no satellites.

More information

All about Venus (from NASA)

Mission to Venus (from National Geographic)

Venus facts for kids (from Coolkidsfacts.com)

EARTH

    • Is the planet that we live on, our planet. 
    • Is the third planet in order from the Sun. It is about 150 million kilometres from the Sun.
    • Makes one complete orbit around the Sun every 365.27 days.
    • Rotates on its axis about the same speed as Mars (just a little slower). It completes one rotation in about 23 hours and 56 minutes.
    • Is mostly covered by water (75%).
    • Has a total of 1 satellite (the Moon).

More information

All about Earth (from NASA)

Planets Earth facts and information (from National Geographic)

The Planet Earth: Astronomy and Space for Kids (video)

MARS

    • Is sometimes called the Red Planet. Its mass (weight) is 1/10th that of the Earth. Its diameter is 1/2 that of our planet. 
    • Is the fourth planet in order from the Sun. It is about 228 million kilometers from the Sun. 
    • Makes one complete orbit around the Sun every 686.98 days. 
    • Rotates on its axis about the same speed as the Earth. It completes one rotation in about 24 hours and 37 minutes. 
    • Has seasons similar to our planet, but they last much longer. 
    • Has a total of 2 satellites (or moons).

More information

Mars: The Red Planet (from NASA)

Facts about Mars (from National Geographic)

All about Mars (from NASA)

JUPITER

    • Is the largest of all the planets. Its mass (weight) is over 320 times that of the Earth. Its diameter is over 10 times that of our planet. 
    • Is the fifth planet in order from the Sun. It is about 780 million kilometres from the Sun. 
    • Makes one complete orbit around the Sun every 11.86 years. 
    • Rotates on its axis faster than any other planet. It completes one rotation in about 9 hours and 50 minutes. 
    • Is one of the brightest planets. 
    • Has a total of 16 satellites.

More information

All about Jupiter (from NASA)

Jupiter for Children: Astronomy and Space for Kids (video)

The science of Jupiter (from NASA) 

SATURN

    • Is the second largest of all the planets. Its mass (weight) is over 95 times that of the Earth. Its diameter is over 10 times that of our planet.
    • Is the sixth planet in order from the Sun. It is about 1.4 billion kilometers from the Sun.
    • Makes one complete orbit around the Sun every 29.46 years.
    • Rotates on its axis at a very fast speed. It completes one rotation in about 10 hours and 39 minutes.
    • Is known for the many rings that go around it. Has a total of 21 satellites.

More information

All about Saturn (from Nasa)

Ask an Astronomer for kids – Saturn (from IPAC)

All about Saturn for Children : Astronomy and Space for Kids (video)

URANUS

    • Is composed mainly of hydrogen and helium gases. Its mass (weight) is over 14 times that of the Earth. Its diameter is 4 times that of our planet. 
    • Is the seventh planet in order from the Sun. It is about 2.9 billion kilometers from the Sun. 
    • Makes one complete orbit around the Sun every 84 years. 
    • Rotates on its axis about the same speed as the Neptune. It completes one rotation in about 17 hours and 14 minutes. 
    • Can sometimes be seen with the naked eye. 
    • Has a total of 15 satellites (or moons).

More information

All about Uranus (from NASA)

Uranus Fun Facts for Kids (from EasySicenceforkids.org)

All About Uranus for Kids: Astronomy and Space for Children (video)

NEPTUNE

    • Is very similar to Uranus in size. Its mass (weight) is over 17 times that of the Earth. Its diameter is 4 times that of our planet.
    • Is the eighth planet in order from the Sun. It is about 4.5 billion kilometers from the Sun.
    • Makes one complete orbit around the Sun every 164.79 years.
    • Rotates on its axis about the same speed as Uranus. It completes one rotation in about 18 hours and 26 minutes.
    • Has a weather system that is very active. Some storms with winds of 400 miles per hour have lasted for hundreds of years on its surface.
    • Has a total of 8 satellites (or moons).

More information

Ask an astronomer for kids – Neptune (from IPAC)

Neptune facts for kids (from Spacedictionary.com)

All About Neptune for Kids: Astronomy and Space for Children (video)

PLUTO

    • Is a dwarf planet. Its mass (weight) is 1/500th that of the Earth. Its diameter is about 1/6 that of our planet. 
    • Is the ninth in order from the Sun. It is about 5.9 billion kilometers from the Sun. 
    • Makes one complete orbit around the Sun every 248 years. 
    • Rotates on its axis slowly when compared to Earth. It completes one rotation in about 6 days and 9 minutes. 
    • Is sometimes known as a double-planet because it has a moon (Charon) that orbits it. 
    • Has a total of 1 satellite (or moons).

More information

All about Saturn (from NASA)

Ask an Astronomer for kids – Saturn (from IPAC)

All about Saturn for Children: Astronomy and Space for Kids (Video)

How To Inspire Your Kids About Space Exploration

Whether it’s learning the constellations or the planets of the Solar System, there are many ways to get children interested in stargazing.

Let your child lead the way and listen to their questions about space and the night sky.

If they’re struggling, prompt their interest by asking them about what they can see, or what they already know. Build on their curiosity, but don’t overwhelm them with too much information. Everyone learns better through play, so have fun!

 Here are our top tips for getting kids into astronomy: 

Games

Make learning about outer space fun with interactive games! Explore the eight different planets and discover what they look like. Test your knowledge of outer space with an online quiz. Playing educational games is a great way to learn new things and have fun, too.

Star-Gazing Math Game

Solar System Games

Quiz: The Planets

Solar System Kids’ Games

Movies

If your kid is interested in space and science-fiction themes, trying to find good movies to show them can be a difficult task as the number of options is low. Movies can be a great source of inspiration to get kids interested in astronomy and all things space. The themes, animations, and challenges featured in these movies can spark their curiosity, wake up their imagination and drive them to study and research more about our Universe.

    • Zathura: A Space Adventure
    • Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets
    • Escape From Planet Earth
    • Wall-e
    • Guardians of the Galaxy

Child-friendly Apps

There are many apps that can help learn about the stars, planets in the sky but many can be confusing for kids. The apps we found have been tested with kids and were found to be both fun and learning. 

Star Walk Kids

Kids Discover Space

Galaxies by Kids Discover

GoSkyWatch Planetarium

Sun by KIDS Discover

Tools

No matter what your kids will  end up seeing in the night sky, you will most likely want to know the proper names of the stars and constellations you find. For this reason, it is helpful to implement a few tools. 

Astronomical Observing with Unaided Eye 

Graphics of All Constellations in the Northern Hemisphere 

Sky Map Online

Interactive Sky Chart 

How to Use a Star Chart

MOON

    • Is a satellite of the Earth and orbits around it. 
    • Is the only object in space that man has ever visited. One reason is that the Moon is much closer to Earth than the other planets (on average about 240,000 miles). 
    • Has a diameter of about 3,476 kilometres. 
    • Takes 27.3 days to make one orbit around the Earth. It also takes the Moon 27.3 days to complete one rotation on its axis. 
    • Surface has many craters on it. These were formed by meteor crashes a long time ago. 
    • Causes many of the tides in the Earth’s oceans. This is because of the gravity force between the Earth and Moon. 
    • Can be seen clearly with your eyes, binoculars, or a telescope.

More information

Ask an Astronomer for kids – The Moon (from IPAC) 

SkyTellers Moon Phases activities for young children (from LPI)

Facts about the Moon (from National Geographic)

All about the Moon: Astronomy for kids (video)

COMETS

    • Are objects made up of gas, ice and dust. They travel around the Sun in an orbit. 
    • Are warmed up as they approach the Sun. This causes the Comet to form a head and tail. 
    • The head is the cloud-like mass we see in the front. The tail is the trailing part which is made up of small particles and ice. 
    • Lose mass each time they pass through the inner regions of the Solar System. 
    • Are usually named after the person who discovered them. 

More information

Fun Comet Facts for Kids (from Ouruniverseforkids.com)

Comets learn the facts (from National Geographic)

All about comets: Astronomy for kids (video)

ASTEROIDS

    • Are also known as the Minor Planets. 
    • Orbit the Sun mainly between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. 
    • Usually, range in size from 1 kilometer to 1000 kilometers across. 
    • Are difficult to observe because of their small size. 
    • Gaspra (above) and Ida (right) are two known Asteroids. Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta are some other of the larger Asteroids. 
    • Sometimes have moons that orbit them. Notice the small moon that orbits Ida (right).
    • Are also known as the Minor Planets. 
    • Orbit the Sun mainly between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. 
    • Usually range in size from 1 kilometer to 1000 kilometers across. 
    • Are difficult to observe because of their small size. 
    • Gaspra (above) and Ida (right) are two known Asteroids. Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta are some other of the larger Asteroids. 
    • Sometimes have moons that orbit them. Notice the small moon that orbits Ida (right).

More information

Asteroids (from National Geographic) 

What are asteroids made from (from Universetoday.com)

What is an asteroid (video) 

METEORITES

    • Are many times confused with meteors and meteoroids. 
    • Meteorites are rocks from space that strike the Earth. 
    • Meteors (also known as shooting stars) are the same kind of object as meteorites, only they are still in space. 
    • Meteoroids could be tiny particles left behind by a comet or can even be an asteroid. Meteoroids are in orbit around the Sun.
    • Meteorites are usually classified as stones, irons or stony-irons. 
    • Have been known to be very large. The Barringer Crater in Arizona (caused by a falling Meteorite) is just over 1/2 miles across and 660 feet deep. 
    • The picture above is an example of a Meteor shower.

More Information 

Meteorites (from Space.com)

Meteors & Meteorites (from NASA)

Meteor Showers (video)

GALAXIES

    • Are a collection of gas, dust and stars. 
    • The distance across them is usually very great and can be many light-years. For example, our Galaxy is made up of over 100 billion stars. The Sun is just one of them. Our Galaxy is over 100,000 light-years across and 3,000 light-years deep. Our Sun is about 30,000 light-years from the centre of our Galaxy. 
    • It is estimated that there are billions of other galaxies in the universe. 
    • The Milky Way is the band of light that is produced by the thousands of stars that lie in the main section of our Galaxy. 
    • Are divided into types. Spiral, elliptical, lenticular, and irregular are the major types. We are part of a spiral galaxy. 
    • The photograph at the top is an example of a distant spiral galaxy named M100.

More Information

What is a Galaxy? (from Royal Museums Greenwich)

Galaxies (from BBC)

Types of Galaxies (from University of Arizona)

Types and Classification of Galaxies (from Cornell University)

Dictionary

Apogee – The point in its orbit around the earth at which an object is furthest from the Earth. 

Asteroid – Any of the thousands of small planets or Minor Planets. 

Aurora – Glows seen over the polar regions which occur when energized particles from the Sun react with particles from the Earth . 

Axis – An imaginary straight line on which an object rotates. 

Black Hole – A region of space around a very small and extremely massive collapsed star within which the gravitational field is so intense that not even light can escape. 

Comet – A small, frozen mass of dust and gas revolving around the sun in an ellipitical orbit. 

Constellation – A grouping of stars which many times form a shape or pattern. 

Eclipse – The hiding or blocking of one celestial object from another. 

Galaxy – A huge collection of stars, gas and dust measuring many light-years across. 

Light Year – The distance which a ray of light would travel in one year. This is about 6,000,000,000,000 (6 trillion) miles. 

Meteor – The luminous phenomenon observed when a meteoroid is heated by its entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Meteorite – That part of a relatively large meteoroid that survives passage through the atomsphere and falls to the surface of a planet as a mass of metal or stone. 

Milky Way – The spiral galaxy containing our Sun. As seen from Earth, the constellation Sagittarius marks the direction to its center. 

Nadir – That point on the celestial sphere directly opposite the zenith and directly below the observer. The lowest point. 

Nebula – An interstellar cloud of gas and dust. 

Nova – A star which suddenly flares up to many times its original brightness before fading again. 

Orbit – The closed path of one object around another. 

Perigee – The point in its orbit around the Earth at which an object is closet to the Sun. 

Revolve – To cause to travel in a circle or orbit. 

Rotate – To turn about a center point or axis. 

Satellite – A small object orbiting a larger one. 

Sidereal Period – The time it takes one object to complete one orbit around another. 

Solar System – The description given to the system dominated by the Sun and including the Planets, Minor Planets, Comets, planetary satellites and interplanetary debris that travel in orbits around the Sun. 

Star – A self-luminous object that shines through the release of energy produced by nuclear reactions at its core. 

Supernova – A huge stellar explosion involving the destruction of a massive star and resulting in a sudden and tremendous brightening. 

Zenith – The point in the sky directly above the observer. The highest point. 

 

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