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Collaborative Group Activities

AstronomyCollaborative Group Activities

  1. Discuss and make a list of the reasons why we humans might want to explore the other worlds in the solar system. Does your group think such missions of exploration are worth the investment? Why?
  2. Your instructor will assign each group a world. Your task is to think about what it would be like to be there. (Feel free to look ahead in the book to the relevant chapters.) Discuss where on or around your world we would establish a foothold and what we would need to survive there.
  3. In the There’s No Place Like Home feature, we discuss briefly how human activity is transforming our planet’s overall environment. Can you think of other ways that this is happening?
  4. Some scientists criticized Carl Sagan for “wasting his research time” popularizing astronomy. To what extent do you think scientists should spend their time interpreting their field of research for the public? Why or why not? Are there ways that scientists who are not as eloquent or charismatic as Carl Sagan or Neil deGrasse Tyson can still contribute to the public understanding of science?
  5. Your group has been named to a special committee by the International Astronomical Union to suggest names of features (such as craters, trenches, and so on) on a newly explored asteroid. Given the restriction that any people after whom features are named must no longer be alive, what names or types of names would you suggest? (Keep in mind that you are not restricted to names of people, by the way.)
  6. A member of your group has been kidnapped by a little-known religious cult that worships the planets. They will release him only if your group can tell which of the planets are currently visible in the sky during the evening and morning. You are forbidden from getting your instructor involved. How and where else could you find out the information you need? (Be as specific as you can. If your instructor says it’s okay, feel free to answer this question using online or library resources.)
  7. In the Carl Sagan: Solar System Advocate feature, you learned that science fiction helped spark and sustain his interest in astronomy. Did any of the members of your group get interested in astronomy as a result of a science fiction story, movie, or TV show? Did any of the stories or films you or your group members saw take place on the planets of our solar system? Can you remember any specific ones that inspired you? If no one in the group is into science fiction, perhaps you can interview some friends or classmates who are and report back to the group.
  8. A list of NASA solar system spacecraft missions can be found at Your instructor will assign each group a mission. Look up when the mission was launched and executed, and describe the mission goals, the basic characteristics of the spacecraft (type of instruments, propellant, size, and so on), and what was learned from the mission. If time allows, each group should present its findings to the rest of the class.
  9. What would be some of the costs or risks of developing a human colony or base on another planetary body? What technologies would need to be developed? What would people need to give up to live on a different world in our solar system?
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