Where are the small worlds? - GSUSA Edition

Central Question: 

Where are the small worlds located within our solar system and which worlds have significant contributions from women in STEM fields?

Mission Outcomes:

  • Outcome #1: Explain the relationship between the speed of a small world and the distance of the object in the solar system;
  • Outcome #2: Observe the three distinct zones in which small worlds can be found; and
  • Outcome #3: Describe the appearance of worlds that lack image data vs worlds NASA has imaged through orbiters and fly-by missions.

Mission Overview:

Where are the small worlds?

Your mission is to step into the shoes of an astronomer as you seek out and locate 15 small worlds in our solar system. Of the unknown number of small worlds in our solar system, unlock all 15 by first finding three in each “zone,” search for their hidden treasure, and discover significant scientific contributions from women in STEM fields. Keep in mind that some of these worlds move very slowly, and most haven’t been explored up close by orbiters or landers—so astronomers don’t yet know their shape or even what their surfaces look like!

Your search for these small worlds will use skills and processes that are similar to those used by scientists in their search for small worlds in our solar system. Finding small worlds in the vast emptiness of space isn’t easy. To be successful, scientists must demonstrate the following traits and skills: 

  • curiosity
  • learning from failure
  • exploration and observation
  • patience and resilience
  • learning new tools and technologies
  • learning from failure
  • using trial and error to solve problems
  • perseverance through adversity

Unlike scientists, you will have the ability to control time using a speed slider and observing changes in the night sky much quicker than in real life. Astronomers in the real world observe and track small worlds over a period of days to months depending on the object’s location in the solar system. These objects are very small and most can only been seen with the aid of a telescope. Even then, they still blend into the night sky and require careful observation to identify. 

Real mission data, orbital data, and imagery are combined with story elements, such as “unlocking” more worlds and using test objects to match the speed of the small worlds, to create an interactive, game-like, exploratory activity where you will search for hidden astrocaches throughout the solar system. Use a “learn-by-doing” approach and see what you can discover.

Getting Started:

  • Use a fully-charged laptop, tablet or desktop computer.
  • Verify you have a good internet connection.
  • Make sure you are using the most recent version of Chrome or Firefox.
  • Be sure to watch the video tutorial for information on game mechanics.

Ready, Set, Launch!