Universe: The Universe Beyond our Solar System

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Science Objects are two hour on-line interactive inquiry-based content modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach. This Science Object, co-developed between NASA and NSTA, is the fourth of five Science Objects in the Universe SciPack. It explores the more unknown parts of the universe beyond our solar system and provides an understanding of where and how we fit into the universe as a whole. Astronomers have carefully measured the changing positions of stars, leading them to believe that the Sun is located about half-way out from the center of a disk-shaped galaxy of stars, part of which can be seen as a glowing band of light that spans the sky on a very clear night. Although our Sun is a single star, most stars exist in systems of two or more stars orbiting around one another and are arranged in huge star clusters. Galaxies are isolated collections of billions of gravitationally bound stars and immense clouds of gas and dust. Galaxies are, in turn, grouped into galaxy clusters and super-clusters. The universe contains many billions of galaxies separated by immense distances of mostly empty space. Some of these distant galaxies are so far away that their light takes several billion years to reach Earth. This means that here on Earth we are seeing them as they were that long ago.

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Reviews (6)
  • on Wed Sep 03, 2014 5:59 AM

I really enjoy Science Objects. In 1-3 hours, the Universe: The Universe Beyond our Solar System Science Object will help me re-learn, refresh, or learn for the first time some critical science concepts I will have to know to obtain my Science Educator credentials. I appreciate that I can complete them at my own pace, and that, if used as park of a SciPack, I have access to a content expert to go to for help. The NSTA Learning Center Science Objects are very beneficial! Not only do they enrich my teaching, the knowledge enriches my life as well!.

Naomi Beverly  (Marietta, GA)
Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA)

  • on Wed Mar 19, 2014 9:01 PM

This helpful science object explains the history and rationale behind various methods of measuring distance in space. Then, it discusses the relative usefulness of each method, depending on the distances involved. This unit both builds on and develops the learner's sense of comparative size and distance in space, which is a very helpful base of knowledge to have. The overall analogy of the science object--that there is a "ladder" of methods which we can use to measure distance in space, with each "step" or "rung" higher being used to measure a more distant celestial body--very helpful. I think that this analogy would make the concept of measuring and comparing distances of this sort (which is general seems highly abstract) more concrete for students as well.

Philip Neilson
Philip Neilson

  • on Mon Aug 27, 2012 11:09 AM

I just love it when my students say "This is science not math...........". This Science Object shows how math is utilized in science.

Elaine Slesinski  (Lake Worth, FL)
Elaine Slesinski (Lake Worth, FL)

  • on Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:52 PM

This resource provides clear, concise information about objects in our solar system (the sun, planets, other stars, etc.) and their relative positions to Earth. The photos and simulations are great, and help the viewer to visual how far away objects in our solar system are, and the mechanisms one can use to measure the distance between celestial objects. We learn of our location/place within our own spiral galaxy, and of objects located outside of the Milky Way. Great exploration to use with students of various ability levels and learning styles.

Lorrie Armfield  (Laurel, MD)
Lorrie Armfield (Laurel, MD)

  • on Tue May 05, 2015 3:07 PM

This article was about comets and asteroids. It was very informative and gave a lot of information about identifying and classifying asteroids and comets. I thought it was very interesting that people once thought that there was a planet between Mars and Jupiter. I was also very interested to learn that so many tons fall from space to Earth each year. It is true that it does not make the news unless it hits something like a car or building.


  • on Tue Sep 25, 2012 9:51 PM

This is a great online resource for a broad source of information on the Solar System! There is a lot of information about stars, planets and many other concepts dealing with the Solar System. There are a interactive questions on almost every page, which give you feedback on your answer immediately! This source would be great to give to the students to learn all of these interesting facts about the Solar System! Only thing i would add to this source, are more videos to make it a more visual experience as well! Great source, I highly recommend it.

Alexandra Goc
Alexandra Goc

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