All the planets in the Solar System have seasons, but on each planet seasons are different from those we know here on Earth.
The weather during each season is determined by a combination of factors:
Mercury, Venus and Jupiter all spin nearly straight, so technically they lack seasons. The tilt of Mars, Saturn and Neptune is very similar to the tilt of the Earth’s axis, so those planets have 4 different easy to tell apart seasons. Uranus is the most peculiar planets – it rolls on the side!
Let’s look at each planet in more detail:
Mercury has the smallest tilt in the Solar System of 1/30 degree, but due to its very elliptical orbit the distance from the Sun varies significantly throughout the year. So it does have what we could call “winter” and “summer”. Mercury has no atmosphere to preserve the heat during the night and the day-to-night variations of temperature on this planet are the most extreme in the Solar System: from +427 C during the day to -173 C at night.
Venus has a tilt of 3 degrees, it spins nearly straight, but the direction of the spin is the opposite from all the other planets (apart from Uranus). We could say that Venus spins upside down and the angle of the tilt is 180-3=177 degrees.
The weather on Venus is always the same – no seasonal variations, no even day-to night changes. Venus has a thick atmosphere made of carbon dioxide that prevents the planet from cooling down at night.
The temperature on Venus is 460 C.
The axis of Mars is tilted a bit more than the Earth’s, at an angle of 25 degrees.
Mars have more elongated orbit and is further away from the Sun. That means that Mars has seasons, but they last different time in different hemispheres!
For example, in the Northern Hemisphere Spring lasts 7 month, Summer – 6 months, Autumn – 6 months and Winter – 4 months. Mars is much further away from the Sun than Earth, so the planet is much colder, except maybe on the poles in summer day, where the temperature can go up to +20 C. But even there it will drop to -90 when the night comes. The average temperature is about -55 C.
Jupiter’s axis is tilted at an angle of 3 degrees (just like Venus), so the seasons are almost impossible to tell apart. Technically each season lasts 3 years. Being so far away from the Sun, the planet does not get much heat from the star, most of the heat comes from within the planet itself! The average temperature on Jupiter is -145 C.
Saturn’s tilt is slightly bigger than the Earth’s, about 27 degrees. Each season lasts for about 7 years. Planet’s average temperature is -178 C.
The orbit of Uranus is nearly circular, but it is tilted at an angle of 98 degrees to the orbital plane. It rolls on the side! So each hemisphere is not just tilted but pointed towards or away from the Sun. For quarter of the orbit one pole is fully exposed to the Sun, while another pole is in the total darkness. Each season on Uranus lasts for 21 years.
Neptune is tilted at an angle of 28.5 degrees, similar to the Earth, experiencing the four seasons, each lasting about 40 years. But because it is so far away from the Sun, the difference between winter temperature and summer temperature are insignificant. An average temperature on Neptune is -214 C.
Small bodies of the Solar System: Asteroids, comets and meteoroids.
Age group: this lesson can be adapted to suit a wide age group from Y4 to Y8.
Time: varies from 1 hour to 1 day
In this lesson, the children think about what else there is in the Solar System apart from the Sun, eight planets and their moons, divided into two groups they learn about asteroids and comets and then present the information to the rest of the class, the children watch a cartoon about the spacecraft called Rosetta and its historical journey to comet 67P/ Churyumov- Gerasimenko, they learn what ingredients the comet is made of and watch the teacher make model of a comet using these ingredients, the children learn about meteoroids, then they do a quiz about asteroids, comets and meteoroids and finish the lesson writing a space dictionary.
Tell the children, that the Solar System is made of the Sun, eight planets and their moons.
Ask the children if there are any other objects in the Solar System. Write down their suggestions on the whiteboard. Discuss them with the class and cross off any incorrect ones.
Summarize, that there are lots of other objects and that they can be divided into two groups: in the first group would be dwarf planets- objects that are big and heavy enough to become round. In the second group would be asteroids, comets a meteoroids – small and funny shaped objects.
Tell the children, that you will be learning about dwarf plants on the next lesson and that the focus of today’s lesson would be the second group.
End of the lesson!
How to make a comet: list of ingredients
(Instructions from the video)
1 liter water (comets have lots of water)
2 cups dirt (minerals, water and dust)
1 Tbsp starch (optional to hold our comet together)
1 Tbsp syrup (for organic)
1 Tbsp vinegar (for amino acids)
1 Tbsp rubbing Alcohol (for methanol)
5 lb dry ice crushed into tiny bits
Free Lesson Plans for teachers who are looking for additional resources to complement our inflatable planetarium. We have developed lesson plans to cater for a range of year groups/ages. For example, Moon Of The Solar System provides an is a suitable resource to follow up our mobile planetarium visit where Y 4,5 or 6 learners were introduced to the solar system. The resource offers ideas for developing a further in-depth understanding of the Moon as a celestial object and its relation to Earth. For the younger audience lesson plan Planets allows embedding the knowledge gained in our presenter-led space mobile planetarium session.
To enhance space relate topic before or after mobile planetarium visit you can also look through a compilation list of web-pages where more resources can be found. BBC Education offers space knowledge material relevant to the British school curriculum. Other websites, such as for example Principia and UK Space Agency contain a number of visual resources and a more even specific information. Aside from incredible visual resources, NASA’s official website contains some great education resources, many of which are printable. If you want your learners to know about the Russian space news ROSCOSMOS website offers information to expand the knowledge gained during our presenter-led mobile planetarium sessions.
www.nasa.gov -The official NASA website
www.esa.int/ESA – European Space Agency
www.bbc.co.uk – BBC science of space
www.bbc.co.uk/education – BBC KS2 Space education resources
www.bbc.co.uk/education – BBC KS1 Earth and Space resources
www.gov.uk – UK Space Agency
https://principia.org.uk – Tim Peaks Journey to the ISS
www.kidsastronomy.com – Videos and games about the solar system