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Collaborative Group Activities

AstronomyCollaborative Group Activities

  1. A new member of Congress has asked your group to investigate why the Galileo probe launched into the Jupiter atmosphere in 1995 survived only 57 minutes and whether this was an example of a terrible scandal. Make a list of all the reasons the probe did not last longer, and why it was not made more durable. (Remember that the probe had to hitch a ride to Jupiter!)
  2. Select one of the jovian planets and organize your group to write a script for an evening news weather report for the planet you chose. Be sure you specify roughly how high in the atmosphere the region lies for which you are giving the report.
  3. What does your group think should be the next step to learn more about the giant planets? Put cost considerations aside for a moment: What kind of mission would you recommend to NASA to learn more about these giant worlds? Which world or worlds should get the highest priority and why?
  4. Suppose that an extremely dedicated (and slightly crazy) astronomer volunteers to become a human probe into Jupiter (and somehow manages to survive the trip through Jupiter’s magnetosphere alive). As she enters the upper atmosphere of Jupiter, would she fall faster or slower than she would fall doing the same suicidal jump into the atmosphere of solid Earth? Groups that have some algebra background could even calculate the force she would feel compared to the force on Earth. (Bonus question: If she were in a capsule, falling into Jupiter feet first, and the floor of the capsule had a scale, what would the scale show as her weight compared to her weight on Earth?)
  5. Would you or anyone in your group volunteer for a one-way, life-long mission to a space station orbiting any of the gas giants without ever being able to return to Earth? What are the challenges of such a mission? Should we leave all exploration of the outer solar system to unmanned space probes?
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