All About the Planets

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11064

What do nachos have to do with the planets? Some planets rock, while others are a gas. All are out of this world! Watch videos, take an online quiz, build a solar system, and play cosmic travel agent!

categories

Space Science and Astronomy

subject
Science
learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

Can you name all of the planets in our solar system in order? How can you remember them?

planets

There are eight planets in our solar system.

Each of these giant balls of gas, dust, and rock revolves around the sun. The eight planets in our solar system include:

  1. Mercury
  2. Venus
  3. Earth
  4. Mars
  5. Jupiter
  6. Saturn
  7. Uranus
  8. Neptune

You can remember the order of the planets with the saying My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos. The first letter in each word represents the name of a planet.

You may be wondering, "What happened to Pluto?"

Pluto used to be the ninth planet in our solar system until 2006. In 2006, scientists redefined what it takes to be considered a planet by creating a list of new criteria. Criteria for being considered a planet include:

  • It must orbit the sun.
  • It must have sufficient mass to assume a nearly round shape.
  • It must clear the neighborhood around its orbit.

According to the scientists, every criterion must be met in order to be considered a planet. Pluto did not meet the criterion known as the "cleared the neighborhood" criterion. Failure to meet this criterion means Pluto is gravitationally dominant in its region of space and there are no other celestial bodies — other than its own satellites — near it. Since this revelation, Pluto has been known as a dwarf planet.

Even though Pluto lost its status as a planet in 2006, all the other planets in our solar system meet the three criteria and are still classified as planets.


The eight planets are divided into two groups; the rocky planets and the gas giants.

The rocky planets, also known as terrestrial planets, are the four inner planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. These planets are much smaller than the outer planets and are made primarily of rock and metal. To learn more about the inner, rocky planets, watch SciShow Kids' Explore the Solar System: The Rocky Planets:

 

The four outer planets are called the gas giants. These planets are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. These planets are primarily made of gas and, because of their distance from the sun, are much colder than the inner planets. To learn more about the gas giants, watch Crash Course Kid's Gas Giants Weather: Crash Course Kids #43.2:

 

After watching the video clips, compare and contrast what you learned about the two types of planets. How are the planets similar? How are they different? Discuss your findings with your parent or teacher.

On a separate piece of paper, draw the following chart:

Planet Description Temperature Distance from the Sun Size # of Rings # of Moons Additional Information
Mercury              
Venus              
Earth              
Mars              
Jupiter              
Saturn              
Uranus              
Neptune              

 

Use NASA's Solar System Exploration: Planets to help you complete the chart. Click on each of the planets to read information, look at pictures, and examine a timeline.

Share your chart with a teacher or parent. Discuss the following questions:

  • Why is Earth the perfect place for humans?
  • What happens to the temperature on each planet as you move farther away from the sun?
  • What planet has the most moons?
  • What planet has the most rings?
  • What planet do you find most interesting? Why?

Orbit on over to the Got It? section for some out-of-this-world challenges!

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