Grade: Middle
Subject: Science

#3227. Unusual Universe

Science, level: Middle
Posted Wed Oct 6 08:15:47 PDT 2004 by Steve O'Keefe (
Ripley's Freaky Fridays, New Orleans
Materials Required: Computer and Internet access
Activity Time: 1-hour chats
Concepts Taught: Developing a deeper understanding of space exploration and study

Teacher's Guide: Week #2
Friday, September 24, 2004
Chat at ePALS from 1-2 p.m. Eastern Time
Chatroom URL:
Log-in with your ePALS username and password
Chatroom Name: ClassroomCompanion
Chatroom Password: CHATNOW

Unusual Universe


In 1998 a space shuttle took up "Neurolab," a package of
various animals that were tested and studied to gauge their
reactions to conditions in space. There were 1,500
crickets, 230 swordtail fish, 130 water snails, 150 rats,
and 18 pregnant mice.

The swordtail fish, crickets, and water snails were
dissected on their return to Earth, to study how their
gravity-detecting balance censors had reacted to weightless
conditions. This work is aimed at helping people with
certain kinds of deafness that affect the ear's inner
hearing and balance censors.

Roundworms (nematodes) were the only living things to
survive the explosion of the space shuttle, Columbia, on
February 1, 2003. The worms were stored in a canister in a
mid-deck locker. The canister was thrown free when the
shuttle disintegrated, falling to Earth in eastern Texas.
Eight garden spiders provided by a school in Melbourne,
Florida, perished in the shuttle disaster. Spiders taken up
to the Skylab space station in the 1970s spun very crooked,
untidy webs.


1. Gravity on the Earth is how many times stronger than it
is on the Moon?
A) 12 times B) 6 times C) 3 times D) 2 times

Answer: B. The Moon's gravity is one-sixth the gravity on
Earth. That means an average person on the Moon could jump
4 meters (13 feet) straight up. On the Moon, quarterbacks
could jump through the uprights on a football goalpost to
score a field goal!

2. How much bigger is the Sun than the Moon?
A) 400 times B) 300 times C) 200 times D) 100 times
E) They're the same size.

Answer: A. The diameter of the Sun is 870,000 miles (1.4
million kilometers), 400 times bigger than the Moon, which
is 2,175 miles in diameter (3,500 km). However, because the
Sun is 400 times farther away than the Moon, they look
roughly the same size from the Earth.

3. Every second, the Sun burns 4 million tons of its own
mass. At that rate, how long will it take the Sun to burn
up completely?
A) 5 thousand years B) 5 million years C) 5 billion
year D) 5 trillion years

Answer: C. The weight of the Sun is 333,000 times the
weight of the Earth. In a single year, the Sun burns up 33
billion million tons of hydrogen!

4. How long does it take for the light of the Sun to reach
the Earth?
A) 8 weeks B) 8 days C) 8 hours D) 8 minutes E) 8

Answer: D. The distance between the Earth and the Sun is
150 million kilometers (93 million miles). Light travels at
the speed of 300,000 kilometers (187,000 miles) per second.
So it takes about 8 minutes (480 seconds) for the Sun's
light to reach Earth.

5. If you are 12 years old on Earth, how old would you be
if you lived on the planet Mercury?
A) 6 B) 12 C) 24 D) 36 E) 48

Answer: E. A year is the amount of time it takes a planet
to circle the Sun. A year on Mercury lasts less than 3
Earth months. So you would be over 48 years old on Mercury!


If you could travel safely to any planet, what planet would
you want to go to? Why?

What is the most interesting thing you have seen in the

How many constellations can you identify? Do you have a

On the next clear night, look up into the sky and draw your
own constellation. It's easy. Just plot some of the stars
you see on a piece of paper, connect the stars with lines,
and think about what your drawing looks like.

How fast are you? Since the earth is always spinning, you
are moving even when you're standing still. Can you figure
out how fast you are moving when you're standing still? The
number will surprise you!

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