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FRAMING PATHWAYS TO ANSWERS: THE SCIENTIFIC PROCESS IN ACTION
STAYING COOL

My Angle on Cooling
Effect of Distance and Inclination

Grade Level: 5-8
Duration: One to Two - 45 minute periods


MESSENGER spacecraft with its solar panels angled toward the Sun for safe power generation.

Lesson Summary

In this lesson, students discover that one way to cool an object in the presence of a heat source is to increase the distance from it or change the angle at which it is faced. The students perform an experiment that measures how the heat experienced by a test subject changes as the distance or the viewing angle changes. The students learn to distinguish which effect is more important for determining the seasons on Earth. They learn how the MESSENGER mission to Mercury takes advantage of these passive cooling methods to keep the spacecraft comfortable in a high-temperature environment.

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Essential Question

How do distance and inclination affect the amount of heat received from a heat source?

Concepts

MESSENGER Mission Connection

Because Mercury is much closer to the Sun than the Earth, a spacecraft studying the planet is exposed to more sunlight than objects on Earth. Two cooling methods used by the MESSENGER mission are making sure the solar panels do not view the Sun face-on, and keeping the distance from the sunlit areas of Mercuryís surface large enough to limit the amount of radiation received from the surface.

Standards & Benchmarks

NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS

Standard D3: Earth in the solar system

Related Standards

Standard B3: Transfer of energy

Standard G2: Nature of science

BENCHMARKS FOR SCIENTIFIC LITERACY (AAAS PROJECT 2061)

Benchmark 12C3


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MESSENGER Education