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IT: Information Handling
Level 5
Pupil Notes
IT: Information Handling Level 5
Planets 2
Read the data sheet on The Solar System.
Create a database about Planets from the information you have been given. Use the
following fields:
Name of Planet
(text field)
Size (Earth 1)
Temperature (°C)
) all numeric
Distance from Sun (million km)
) fields
Day Length (hours)
Sort the planets into DISTANCE FROM THE SUN starting with the closest. Save and
print this list.
Sort the planets using SIZE into numerical order, with the smallest planet first. Save and
print this list.
How many planets are larger than the Earth? Print this out. Explain how you used the
computer to give you the answer:
Print the NAME and TEMPERATURE of those planets which have a temperature of more
than 5°C.
Data Sheet The Solar System
The Sun is, in fact, a star in the Milky \Nay. it is positioned in the “Orion Spur”, near the edge of the
constellation, it takes 200 million years to complete one orbit of the constellation. The Sun is the only
object in the solar system which gives off (radiates) light - all the others just reflect it.
Our Sun is an average size star Sirius B is a dwarf star, whilst Antaris is a red giant, about 300
times larger than the Sun. if it were possible to drive a car around the equator of the Sun at 88
kph it would take 5.5 years to complete the journey non-stop!
The Sun is shrinking at a rate of 1 metre every hour, but this may be an oscillation. Every 2 hours and 40
minutes the surface of the Sun pulses, travelling at kph, altering the diameter by as much as 10km.
Viewed from Earth, the Sun has the same apparent size as the Moon, which makes eclipses possible. The
Sun is 149 million km from Earth. The diameters at the equators and poles are roughly the same at
1,392,000 km. The Sun rotates once every 30 days and its mass is 332,950 times greater than Earth. its
maximum surface temperature is 6100°C and this falls to a minimum of 3 870°C.
Mercury is the second smallest planet in our solar system and is only 58 million km from the sun. its
surface temperature averages 350C. it is difficult to see as it only rarely drops below the Sun’s disc. (The
Earth is 2 ½ times larger than Mercury).
its surface is battered into many craters formed by millions of meteors hitting it as they were drawn
towards the Sun. in this respect it appears very similar to our own Moon, but it does not have the large
flat areas which the Moon has. its only large flat area is called the Caloris Basin, which is over 1350 km
in diameter (about the same length as Britain) caused by a very large impact. Mercury also has enormous
vertical cliffs up to 3 km high and 480 km long.
Astronomers think that these are relatively recent, as they cut through craters and other features. lt is
believed that they were caused by the planet shrinking, as it is extremely hot on the side which faces the
Sun and bitterly cold on the other. Mercury rotates slowly on its axis, its day length is 1461 hours.
In size and distance from the Sun, Venus is almost a twin of Earth. in fact, it is 9/10 the size of the Earth.
it is easily spotted, as it is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and Moon. its atmosphere consists
of clouds of sulphuric acid, which makes it very different from our own. Venus is i08 million km from
the sun and has a surface atmosphere of 480°C.
About i 5% of its surface consists of mountains and lowlands, it has two vast upland areas:
they are Aphrodite Terra, which is as large as Africa, and Ishtar Terra, which is the same size as
Australia. The highest mountains on Ishtar Terra are more than 2 km higher than Everest. The surface
has craters which are the result of impacts with meteors and volcanic activity. The
4 Pupil Notes ITS3
surface temperature is higher than that of Earth.
Strangely, Venus rotates in the opposite direction to all of the other planets, a result, so some scientists
believe, of a collision aeons ago. it has the lowest rotation time of any planet, its day length is 5832
Earth is the only planet in the solar system on which we are sure that life exists. This is because on Earth
water can exist as a solid, a liquid and a gas. Water covers around 90% of the surface of the planet and
the land masses move slowly on “plates”.
The Earth moves around the Sun, so our position compared with other stars and planets changes, causing
apparent movement in them. We are 150 million km from the Sun and our average surface temperature
is 15°C.
The planet is slightly pear-shaped with a small bulge in the southern hemisphere and an imaginary line
called the equator separating the two hemispheres. Because the Earth tilts, we get seasons, as does Mars.
There are ice caps at the poles on each, too.
lt is the largest and most dense of the inner planets and has a mass equivalent to that of Pluto, Mercury,
Venus, Mars and the Moon all put together.
The Moon
The Moon is not a planet - it is a satellite which circles the Earth, always keeping the same side towards
us. it has dark areas called marias (seas) made from balalitic lava, and many craters. Other features are
large crevasses called rules and bright streaks called rays. The Moon is covered in a coating of dust
called regolith.
It would take 81 Moons to have the same mass as Earth, and its gravity is about one-sixth of that
experienced on Earth. The velocity of an object orbiting the Moon is about the same as a high-powered
rifle bullet. So if you stood on a very high mountain and fired a bullet horizontally, two hours later you
will have shot yourself in the back (if you stay there)!
Mars is a desert world which is very rich in iron oxide (rust). it is about half the size of the Earth. it has
polar ice caps made from water and frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice - like they use in special effects at the
theatre). Mars is 228 million km from the Sun and has an average surface temperature of -50°C.
it is a tilted planet and therefore has seasons. in summer, enormous dust storms occur which can cover
half the planet.
On Mars is Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar system it is the size of France and
Pupil Notes ITS3 5
three times higher than Mount Everest! Other volcanoes and craters exist on the surface. The canyon
Valles Marineris is as wide as the USA. lt also snows on Mars - but it is frozen carbon-dioxide not water.
Asteroids (minor planets)
Beyond Mars is the Asteroid Belt. Asteroids are divided into three main types. About 75% are
C types which are carboniferous and very dark, i 4% are S types which are rust red, and 5% are
M types which are metallic. (Others lie outside this classification).
Shapes and sizes vary tremendously. Some like Victoria and Pallas have their own moon asteroids.
Hektor is shaped like a peanut shell and thought to be two asteroids stuck together. it is believed that the
gravity of Jupiter stopped these asteroids from forming into a planet.
Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system, it is 11 times bigger than the Earth, with a mass over
twice that of all the other planets combined. Jupiter is 778 million km from the Sun and has an average
surface temperature of -1 50°C. lt consists mostly of hydrogen and helium, and savage storms, which can
be seen from Earth, rage across its surface. The great ‘Red Spot’ is a permanent cloud of swirling, rising
gas which was first observed in 1 655 and is twice as big as Earth.
Jupiter gives out more energy than it gets from the Sun, due to its contraction which produces a strong
magnetic field. This magnetic field’s radiation is strong enough to kill a person, and Jupiter generates
plasmas which are hotter than the Sun’s core.
The planet rotates faster than any other planet - it takes about 10 hours to rotate at its equator. Saturn
Saturn is the second largest planet in the solar system, it is 9.4 times larger than our planet. it is encircled
by a series of bright rings. Saturn is i 427 million km from the Sun and has an average surface
temperature of -180°C. Like Jupiter, its visible surface consists of swirling clouds, it has a very low
density, and if we could find a stretch of sea water which is large enough it would actually float! Despite
its size, its gravity is less than Earth’s and it has a distinct bulge at the equator. Day length on Saturn is
10.3 hours.
One feature is the aurorae on the surface - these are electromagnetic disturbances like the Northern
Lights sometimes visible in Britain.
Uranus is a greenish/blue planet, with the rarity of being ‘tipped over’ onto its side. Each pole is in
sunlight or darkness for 42 years, and then they swap over. Uranus is 2870 million km from
6 Pupil Notes ITS3
the Sun. lt has an average surface temperature of -200°C. it too has minor rings like Saturn’s and
winds which blow in the direction of the planet’s rotation have been discovered. Uranus is
thought to have a large rocky core covered by a layer of ice and its colour is produced by an
atmosphere containing large quantities of methane gas. Uranus is four times the size of the Earth
but rotates much faster, it’s day length is only 10.8 hours.
Neptune is 4497 million km from the Sun and was only discovered in 1 846. it has an average
surface temperature of -220°C. The existence of Neptune was produced by mathematics. A
wobble was detected in the orbit of Uranus, and so scientists started to look for a cause. Like
Jupiter, it goes off more energy than it receives from the Sun, and it also has an atmosphere
containing methane clouds. One cloud is as large as the Earth (‘The Great Dark Spot’). Neptune
is 3.8 times the size of the Earth, and is also thought to have rings. lts moons orbit in the opposite
direction to its own rotation. Neptune’s day length is 5.8 hours.
in 1978, a moon of Pluto was discovered called Charon. Pluto itself was discovered in 1930 by
astronomers searching for “Planet X” which was causing a wobble in the orbits of Neptune and
Uranus. The earth is 5 times larger than Pluto.
it is thought that Pluto and Charon may be escaped moons from Neptune, but no real proof
exists. Sometimes Pluto is not the outermost planet. For periods of 20 years, its orbit takes it
inside that of Neptune this happened in i 979, Pluto regaining its outermost position in 1 999.
Pluto is 5900 million km from the Sun and is very cold with an average surface temperature of
-2 40°C.