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Solar System research questions Group 1 River, Mark, Tommy Planetary atmospheres and weather Gas giant planets: how much of the planet is really gas? How do we know? What’s in the center of the gas giant planets? (For Jupiter, you may want to check out the Juno mission which is going on right now. For Saturn, check out the Cassini mission.) What drives weather on the gas giant planets and how is that different from the weather on planets such as Earth or Mars? What is the Great Red Spot on Jupiter (give some details, don’t just say “it’s like a hurricane”)? What makes it? How has it been changing? Why are the atmospheres of Neptune and Uranus blue/green? What planet has the most violent weather in the solar system? Check out precipitation on these planets: Venus (rain and snow), Jupiter and Uranus (diamonds!). Why is earth the only planet in the solar system with oxygen in its atmosphere? Why do the gas giants have such large atmospheres compared with the terrestrial planets? What makes the polar hexagon on Saturn? Group 2 Julia, Carter, Deven, Max Moons and rings How many moons are in the solar system (count per planet)? Why do planets like Saturn and Jupiter have so many moons? Where do moons come from, or how were they formed (exclude Earth’s moon)? How do rings form? What are they made of? How big/thick are they? What is the lifespan of a ring? What happens to it eventually? Which planets have rings and how many rings per planet? Why can’t we see rings around any planet except Saturn? How does Io make a ring around Jupiter? (For Jupiter, you may want to check out the Juno mission which is going on right now. For Saturn, check out the Cassini mission.) Check out Chariklo – and explain how that happened! Group 3 Carlo, Marko, Andrew Asteroids and KBOs Explain the formation of the Asteroid Belt. Explain the formation of the Kuiper Belt. How many asteroids and KBOs are there? Give estimates of each. What is an asteroid patrol and why are they necessary? Define NEA and PHA asteroids. How many times in geologic history do we have records of asteroid impacts on Earth? Where is the closest impact crater to Grosse Pointe? Explain the “rubble pile” model of a typical asteroid. How is an asteroid or KBO different from a dwarf planet? What are Trojan asteroids? What was the most recent killer asteroid to impact Earth? Give some details of the event. Did an asteroid cause the dinosaurs to become extinct? Explain the theory for that. Where is the crater? What other evidence do we have that supports it (K-T boundary clays)? Group 4 Brendan, Steven, Brian The edge of the solar system How is the edge of the solar system defined (3 ways)? What’s the problem with coming up with a precise edge location? Define heliopause. How is it different from the heliosphere? Define the interstellar medium. What is the bow shock? Where is it located? What is the termination shock and where is it located? How does the heliosphere protect us (from cosmic rays)? Where are the two Pioneer and two Voyager spacecraft now (distance, directions)? Have they reached the edge of the solar system? Where is the Oort Cloud relative to the Sun and the Kuiper Belt? What is the Inner and outer limit of the Cloud? What types of objects are in the Oort Cloud? Group 5 Harrison, Sam, Stefana Weird planetary motions What are shepherd moons? What planets have them? Research Jupiter’s story of formation – how it wandered through the solar system and the consequences of that. Some of the large planets have sets of moons in retrograde revolutions around the planet. Which planets? How could that be explained? Why is Uranus orbiting on its side? Why don’t its rings and magnetic field align with its rotation? Why is Venus rotating backwards? Why do all the planets orbit in the same direction around the Sun? If a planet orbited in a different direction, what might that indicate about its history? Why do astronomers suspect that Planet Nine was stolen by our Sun from another star? What causes eruptions on moons like Io, Europa and Enceladus?