Astronomy Unit Study: Unit Nine: Jupiter


Jupiter: Reading

We did most of our reading from the chapter on Jupiter from the Apologia text book. However, I also found a very interesting slide show on exploring Jupiter, which the girls LOVED. And whilst not strictly reading, NASA has produced a few quick videos, such as ‘Why with Nye – Mission to Jupiter‘. This set of eight videos explore different aspects of Jupiter and man’s exploration. They are really informative, as well as being really funny – perfect for two little giggling girls!

Jupiter: Writing

The girls wrote notes in their notebooking journal:

The girls also completed a page of the Jovian News – a newspaper dedicated to space fans worldwide! We researched actual news related to Jupiter and copied the girls copied it into their notebooks:

They also filled in a mini book all about Jupiter and completed the copywork for the chapter:


Jupiter: Comparative Models of Jupiter and the Earth

I got this activity from the NASA Website. We made some strawberry jelly using half the amount of water recommended. Lining a plate with cling-film, we poured in the jelly. I cut the bottom of a paper plate out to use as a Jupiter template and gathered together paper plates for the models, half pitted cherries, yogurt, jelly sweeties cut up, aerosol cream and Calpol syringes filled with warm jam:

Oh, and two enthusiastic grubby scientists:

Abigail used a knife to cut the jelly around the Jupiter template:


This was flipped over and the edges torn away:


This base model was turned onto the plate (which we had labelled):


Making the Jupiter Model

The girls filled in one of the half cherries with cut up pieces of jelly sweets, and then squeezed the warmed jam around the edges of the Jelly.



The half pitted cherry filled with the jelly sweets represents Jupiter’s rocky core; the strawberry jelly represents Jupiter’s liquid metallic hydrogen inner layer and the warm jam represents Jupiter’s molecular hydrogen layer.

A layer of aerosol cream is squirted around the circular model to represent
Jupiter’s gaseous atmosphere:


Making the Earth Model

Once the model of Jupiter was complete, the girls moved onto the relatively tiny model of the earth. Abigail filled the pitted cherry with just one jelly sweet piece. This jelly is the earth’s inner rock and metal core. She then smeared some yogurt around the sweet. This yogurt represents the earth’s molten outer core:


The cherry flesh represents the earth’s mantle whilst the cherry skin represents the earth’s crust. The girls then smeared a thin amount of whipped cream around the cherry. This represents the earth’s gaseous atmosphere:


Comparing the Two Models

The two models were compared and inferences made with regards to each planet’s properties.

Shown below is Abigail’s model:

And Becca’s model:

  • The girls could see that Jupiter is not just bigger than earth, but bigger by far! In fact, the entire earth is the same size as Jupiter’s core, as shown by the two half cherries.
  • Both models do have layers however, and are made up of similar materials, namely rocks, gasses and metals
  • The relative thickness of the cream demonstrates the difference between the thick atmosphere of Jupiter and the thinner atmosphere of earth

I made up a notepage for the girls to stick in their books:


Jupiter: Making a Model of the Juno Space Craft

Again, I got this activity from the NASA website. As usual I tweaked it, using bits and pieces I had on hand. Each model requires the following:

  • A picture of Jupiter
  • Three magnets (these can be any type: craft, large or small) I had four left over from a magnetics kit I bought from a charity shop, so I used them
  • Three lolly sticks (thick card could be used)
  • Three paper clips (I don’t own any paper clips, but I did have some tiny circular discs with a metallic edge which would do the same job
  • Two small card or wooden disc (again, I had some mirror discs, so I used them. They actually looked quick authentic. Sometimes back up plans work better than the original!)
  • Foil
  • Super glue or double sided tape (I ended up using the super glue as mirrors are remarkably difficult to stick to anything!):

Instructions: Making Juno

First, the girls glued the discs to one end of the lolly stick. These discs will represent Juno’s magnetometer. This is a tool which studies the magnetic field around Jupiter, helping scientists figure out what the planet is like inside:


This is what they should look like:

The lolly sticks should then be arranged equidistance apart onto one of the mirror discs. The lolly sticks represent Juno’s solar arrays. These use energy from the sun to power the spacecraft:


This is what your space craft should look like now:


The second disc is then placed over the top:


Becca’s model so far:


The girls covered one magnet each with foil:


And stuck the to the top of their space craft (the magnetometers should be facing down). This represents the body of Juno, and holds the tools needed to explore Jupiter. This would also hold the camera for taking pictures in space:


Instruction: Preparing the Picture of Jupiter

The girls left their models to dry and prepared their picture of Jupiter:


With the two magnets left over, the girls stuck one at each pole (north and south Jupiter) on the underside of the picture:


The picture of Jupiter was placed, magnet face down, picture side up, and the girls did some Juno fly-bys using their models:


As the space craft flew close to Jupiter, the girls felt a pull from the magnets at the poles:


Atop the body of Juno is the antenna which allows the space craft to link to us back on earth and transmit information about Jupiter:

Our model is just that – a model. It uses the magnetic forces between the magnets on the space craft and the magnets under the picture to demonstrate the pulls the real Juno feels as it flies by Jupiter:


The real Jupiter does not use magnets, but the demonstrable pull in the model Juno is very close to what would be felt near to the poles of Jupiter:


And of course we made a note page:


Jupiter: Recreating a Hurricane

This was, theoretically at least, an incredibly quick and simple activity. I remember it having a sort of wow factor with my older children when they were little. Not so much today. It took us attempt after attempt, and could I create a hurricane type swirl? No I could not! Eventually, with three helpers we managed to achieve a tiny swirl. More a mini wind than a hurricane…maybe a bit like a blowing-out-the-candle type of wind. Yes, not my best effort.

Anyway, if you’d like to try this frustrating activity find two bottles, fill one, attach together using gaffa tape:

Twirl and watch in amazement…as very little happens:

Repeat until such a time as you see a tiny, teeny, winsy swirl:

Call it a red-spot-like-hurricane, and a job well done.

Not my finest homeschooling moment, but I’m sure the girls will survive my substandard hurricane 🙂

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