Strand two: Earth and space

ELEMENT: Building blocks

Students should be able to:

1. describe the relationships between various celestial objects including moons, asteroids, comets, planets, stars, solar systems, galaxies and space


Space Place:

2. explore a scientific model to illustrate the origin of the universe

Today, the consensus among scientists, astronomers and cosmologists is that the Universe as we know it was created in a massive explosion that not only created the majority of matter, but the physical laws that govern our ever-expanding cosmos. This is known as The Big Bang Theory.

The Big Bang hypothesis states that all of the current and past matter in the Universe came into existence at the same time, roughly 13.8 billion years ago. At this time, all matter was compacted into a very small ball with infinite density and intense heat called a Singularity. Suddenly, the Singularity began expanding, and the universe as we know it began.

This is not the only modern theory of how the Universe came into being – for example, there is the Steady State Theory or the Oscillating Universe Theory – but it is the most widely accepted and popular. Not only does the model explain the origin of all known matter, the laws of physics, and the large scale structure of the Universe, it also accounts for the expansion of the Universe and a broad range of other phenomena.

-adapted from

Keyword List






3. interpret data to compare the Earth with other planets and moons in the solar system, with respect to properties including mass, gravity, size, and composition.

Hubble Space Telescope:

Deep Space Network Homepage:

YouTUBE Comment on the video

Mercury's rotation is bizarre but it could be worse for the little guy. Mercury could have ended up tidally locked spinning once for every orbit - in fact until the 50's scientists believed this was the case - which means one side would fry in the endless sunlight and the other freeze under eternal night. Luckily Mercury has caught itself in a 3:2 resonance, it spins 3 times for every 2 times it goes round the Sun. This causes some weird effects, Mercury's true day - it's rotation period - is a little over 58 and a half Earth days. The problem comes in that while it's spinning so slowly, it's also moving rather quickly around the Sun, Mercury's year is ~88 days, this means that the effect of moving round the Sun is fighting against the planet's spin, keeping the sun in the sky for far longer than the duration of the rotation of the planet ~176 days or 2 Mercurian years from one sunrise to one sunset! Interestingly enough this same effect works in reverse on the reverse planet Venus. Venus spins in the opposite direction of all the other planets rotating clockwise as seen from it's north pole - vs counter clockwise for every other planet. Venus's true or rotational day is 243 Earth days long while it's year is a bit under 225 days. But because it moves around the Sun faster than it rotates - and the rotation is in reverse of it's motion around the Sun - the motion causes the Sun to set before the planet fully rotates - the planet literally shadows itself, imagine moving around a lamp in a circle, but not turning you always face the same direction, if you start out facing the lamp, the halfway through the circle you'll have your back to it. This results in Venus's solar day being considerably shorter at 116.75 days.

Shopping List

ELEMENT: Systems and interactions

Students should be able to:

4. develop and use a model of Earth-Sun-Moon system to describe predictable phenomena observable on Earth, including seasons, lunar phases, and eclipses of the Sun and the Moon


Give / find definitions for the seasons

Solistice - the shortest / longest day of the year (21st December / June (opposite length days in Australia))

Equinox -


Build the models from this site

Solar System Simulator:

Atmospheric refraction raises the sun about 1/2 degree upward at sunrise and sunset. This advances the sunrise yet retards the sunset, adding several minutes of daylight at each end of the day. Image credit: Wikipedia

5. describe the cycling of matter, including that of carbon and water, associating it with biological and atmospheric phenomena.



Students should be able to:

6. research different energy sources; formulate and communicate an informed view of ways that current and future energy needs on Earth can be met.

ELEMENT: Sustainability

Students should be able to:

7. illustrate how earth processes and human factors influence Earth’s climate, evaluate effects of climate change and initiatives that attempt to address those effects

8. examine some of the current hazards and benefits of space exploration and discuss the future role and implications of space exploration in society.

Build models of space craft

Solar System Simulator:

JPL Mars Mission Homepage:

ASU Mars Education / Thermal Emission' Spectrometer Homepage:

Cassini Mission to Saturn:

Galileo Mission to Jupiter:

Cool Internet Sites

NASA Astrobiology Homepage:

Athena Rover Homepage:

Windows to the Universe Homepage:

Stardust Homepage:

SETI Homepage:

Astronomy Picture of the Day