Lesson 1: Solar System and Its Vicinity

After defining a few terms (light years, parsecs, solar system, Galaxy, Universe), the class will look at size and scale from local distances on Earth (how big is Washington, DC and how long would it take you to walk from one end to another?  How long would it take an airplane to cross DC?  How long would voyager take to cross DC? ) to solar system distances,  to local star distances, to Milky Way size distances, to distances between local galaxies, and finally to average distances between galaxies.

By viewing the following scenes, students will compare Solar System distances with (local) Earth distances.  The crew of the space ship Antares sets off on a journey around the solar system visiting almost all of the planets.  In this scene, the TV show Defying gravity is introduced with a little of the back story of the show.  

Defying Gravity:  Episode 1: Introduction.      http://vimeo.com/98223849

Defying Gravity:  Episode 1: mission profile.  http://vimeo.com/98223954

Defying Gravity:  Episode 1: Venus Burn.        http://vimeo.com/98223956

The crew of the space ship Antares sets off on a journey around the solar system visiting almost all of the planets.  In this scene, the journey is described and detailed.  

Defying Gravity:  Episode 1: Rubicon Point.   http://vimeo.com/98223955


Watching the videos on this page, students will compare travel distance to Jupiter with (local) Earth distances.  

In the next scene, an alliance between the USA and the USSR attempts a journey to Jupiter.  A fairly accurate description of the rigors and time involved to make the journey is depicted.

2010 Near Jupiter http://vimeo.com/98223444

In this scene, due to the speeds needed to travel between planets, the space ship Lenov uses aero braking to slow down.  Aero braking is using the drag from a space vehicles interaction with a planet or moon’s atmosphere to slow down.

2010 Jupiter Aero Braking http://vimeo.com/97034907


In this scene, the movie maker’s try to give a sense of scale and size of our solar system, galaxy, and universe by showing how far the furthest radio signals created by man could reach.  For most of the journey, through this scene there is only silence.  This indicates, most of our signals have only gone through relatively nearby space.

Contact Opening Scene http://vimeo.com/98223845

In this scene, the movie makers use hyperspace to travel large distances within a solar system.   If modern rockets were used to try to travel this distance, the travel time would be measured in years.

BSG mini Jump http://vimeo.com/98223564


Travel Distances to Close Stars from our Solar System

In this scene, the movie makers show a migration from Earth to an unnamed nearby solar system with dozens of planets and hundreds of moons.  They show the travel from solar system to solar system as a trip that would take a non- trivial amount of time.

Serenity Opening Scene  http://vimeo.com/98224065

In this scene, the crew of the spaceship use hyperspace to travel from their local solar system to some point outside of their solar system.  To use simple chemical rockets  would take decades to travel the same distance.

BSG mini Solar System Jump http://vimeo.com/9822369

Students will compare distances to star Vega to local Earth distances. In this scene, Dr. Aroway has discovered a signal from what appears to be an alien civilization.  The signal appears to come from a nearby solar system around a star called Vega.  The scene also describes how long a signal would have to travel before being heard on Earth if the signal originated from Vega.

Contact First Message   http://vimeo.com/98223707