                               Overview: Mercury facts      Overview
of "Fast Facts: Mercury" Description:
Fast Facts: Mercury lists Mercury's age, location, average distance from the Sun, diameter, mass, orbital period around the Sun, number of moons, and distinguishing features. A picture of the planet is included. There are similar tables for the other seven planets.
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How to use it in the classroom

Fast Facts: Mercury can be used alone to:

Fast Facts: Mercury can be used with the seven other planet-themed tables to:

Practice reading tables. Give each student a planet-themed Fast Facts table. Ask them to find the number of moons for their planet or the diameter of their respective planets.

Recognize and order large numbers. Have students arrange the planets in order from closest to farthest from the Sun based on the distances in the table. Alternatively, have them arrange the planets from smallest to largest by mass and/or diameter.

Practice conversions by changing the distances in either kilometers or miles into astronomical units (1 AU = average distance from Earth to the Sun = 149,600,000 km = 92,960,000 miles).

Compare features of the planets. Have students match the planets to statements that describe a unique feature of each planet, such as: "This planet is closest to the Sun" or "This planet has two moons." Either the teacher or the student can generate the statements using information from the planet-themed Fast Facts.

Teacher-generated statements
As an introduction to the planets, have students use the planet-themed Fast Facts tables to match the statement to the planet. As an assessment after studying the planets, have students match the statement to the planet without using the planet-themed Fast Facts tables.

Student-generated statements
Form groups of students and have the groups use the Fast Facts tables to write statements about each planet's features that are unique to that planet without identifying it by name. Students should record each planet's description in random order on one sheet of paper and their answers on another. Collect the description sheets and answers from each group. Redistribute the description sheets making sure the authors don't get their own sheet. Have the groups identify the planets being described without looking at the Fast Facts tables. Afterward, compare the statements generated by the students for each planet. This could be done by having each group read the statement for a particular planet. Were similar statements made about a particular planet or were they all different?

Determine the relationship between a planet’s distance from the Sun and its period of revolution around the Sun (Kepler’s Third Law) using either method below: (Recommended for grades 10–12.)

• Use graphing calculators to plot one variable against the other. For example, plot distance from the Sun along the x axis and period of revolution along the y axis (or vice versa). Note that since the relationship is not a straight line, the distance is not proportional to the period. Ask students what they might do to the variables to produce a straight line (or direct proportion).

• Have students calculate the square and cube of the distance and the period. Then have them plot the square of the distance vs. the period, the period squared, and the period cubed. Follow this by the cube of the distance vs. the period, the period squared, and the period cubed. Ask students to identify which graph resulted in a straight line and what combination is a direct proportion. Answer: The relationship is that the period squared is proportional to the average distance cubed. Hint: To make the calculations a little easier, express the distances in terms of astronomical units (1 AU = 149,600,000 km = 92,960,000 miles), and use years for the periods.

Related materials

See the Solar system section on "Teaching tools" page.    Overview: Mercury facts    