Monday, October 15, 2007

Googlearning the Moon

As I was preparing last week for my Friday evening middle school presentation on exploring space with your computer, I took a closer look at the educational features that accompanied the launch of the Google Lunar X-Prize a month or so back. There's some pretty nice stuff, much of it created by the Saint Louis Science Center, including excellent grade-specific learning guides.

One thing that I added to my presentation was the scale solar system based on Google Maps. This activity assumes that the Earth is the size of a basketball and places the sun at any address you specify. It then displays a series of rings representing the orbits of the planets in the scale of the map. So with the sun at my office in Westborough, MA, Mercury is just outside our office park, Earth is 2 miles down Route 9, Mars is in Southborough, Jupiter is in Natick, Saturn's in Newton, Uranus is in Boston Harbor, Neptune's in Plymouth (south shore), and Pluto ends up in Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod. I've driven to and flown over these places, so it's big but still familiar. Of course a walkable scale model is even better for the kids if you've got the time and space for it.

There's a lot more there, so have a look. The video "Earth's Offshore Island" (part 1 linked above) is a great explanation of the Moon's importance and potential. There are more videos in the X-Prize YouTube Channel.

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