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Name:_________________ Period___________

How did our solar system form?


Summary Scientists make observations of our solar system and other star systems and use the information to develop a model of how our solar system may have formed. Any model of solar system formation must account for the motion, composition and location of all the planets and their moons. In this lab, you will use the motion and composition of objects in our solar system to form a model that explains the formation of the solar system.

Before you begin, complete the following...


1. Make a list objects you think are in our solar system?

2. Are all the objects in our solar system moving? Explain.

3. Describe how you think our solar system was formed.

Define the following terms:

solar system (792): solar nebula (818): planetesimals (819): accretion (819): revolution (752): rotation (752): planetary orbit (792): incline (from me):

Part 1: Shapes of Planetary Orbits


1. Examine Figure 1, which shows the orbits of the inner planets. In general,

what shape are the inner planets orbits? Figure 1: The orbits of the inner planets Are all the orbits of the inner planets centered in the same place? Which orbit is the most off-center?
2.

3. Examine Figure 2,

which shows the orbits of the outer planets. In general, what shape are the outer planet orbits?

Figure 2: The orbits of the outer planets

4. Of all the planets, which has an orbit that is the most different from the others?

Describe how this planets orbit is different from the others?

5. In one sentence, describe the shapes of the orbits of all the planets.

TABLE 1: Rotation and Revolution Data


Planet Revolution Mercury CCW Venus CCW Earth CCW Mars CCW Jupiter CCW Saturn CCW Uranus CCW Neptune CCW Pluto CCW Planet Inclination of Orbit 7 3.4 0 1.9 1.3 2.5 0.77 1.8 17 Planet Rotation CCW CW CCW CCW CCW CCW CCW CCW CCW Moon Revolution No moons No moons CCW CCW CCW CCW CCW CCW CCW Moon Rotation No moons No moons CCW N/A CCW N/A N/A N/A N/A Planet Density 5.4 5.2 5.5 3.9 1.3 0.7 1.3 1.6 2.1

Part 2: Inclinations of Planetary Orbits


1. Examine Table 1. Which planet has the largest inclination?

2. How do the inclinations of Jupiter and Saturn compare with those of Uranus

and Neptune?

3. Why is the Earth's inclination exactly 0?

4. In one sentence, describe the shape of the solar system, using your answers from Part 1 and Part 2. This shape must be accounted for in a model of the solar system, and of solar system formation.

Part 3: Rotations of the Planets


1. Examine Table 1. In which direction is our solar system rotating and

revolving?

2. Which planet is not rotating the same direction?

3. Do the rotations of solar system bodies (planets and moons) seem to indicate

that most of them formed together at the same time in the same way, or separately under different conditions?

4. How could you tell if an individual moon or planet may not have formed along

with the rest? If a moon or planet did not form with all the others in its vicinity, how might it have gotten there?

5. In one sentence, describe the rotations and revolutions of the planets. These motions must be accounted for in a model of the solar system, and of solar system formation.

Part 4: The Densities of Planets


1. Examine Table 1. What trends can you find in densities from inner planets to

outer ones?

2. Suppose you were to tie several rocks of different weights (like 1, 5, 10, and 20 kilograms) to ropes and, one by one, whirl them around your head and then let go. Which rocks would end up the closest to you? Which would end up farthest away?

3. Are the densities of the planets distributed this way?

4. Given your answers to the above questions, where would you expect to find

most of the iron, metals, and radioactive materials (the heavy stuff!)---the inner or outer solar system?

5. Why would much of the gases condense in the outer part of the solar system,

far from the heat of the sun?

6. In one sentence, describe the distribution (pattern) of densities in the solar

system. This distribution must be accounted for in a model of the solar system, and of solar system formation.

Part 5: Nebular Theory (The Standard Model) Below is a description of the events that formed our solar system according to Nebular Theory. This theory explains the motion, composition, and location of nearly all the planets and moons:
1. A star explodes and forms a swirling cloud of gas and dust held together by gravity! The cloud is moving in a counter-clockwise direction.

2. Gas and dust begin to condense and clump together. 3. A star (the sun) forms within the densest region of the cloud. 4. More dense materials with high melting points condense close to the hot sun. 5. Less dense material (gases) with low melting points condense far from the sun. 6. Planetesimals (asteroid sized clumps of material) formed and grew larger by accretion. 7. Planetesimals collided eventually forming planets.

Analysis 1. How long ago did our solar system form?

2. What is the difference between condensation and accretion?

3. What evidence is there that Pluto did not form along with the other planets and moons?

4. Sketch a cartoon strip showing the major steps of solar system formation

according to Nebular Theory. Write a short caption in each cell that describes each step.