Chapter 14 Cosmic Samples and the Origin of the Solar System
Collaborative Group Activities
- Ever since the true (cosmic) origin of meteorites was understood, people have tried to make money selling them to museums and planetariums. More recently, a growing number of private collectors have been interested in purchasing meteorite fragments, and a network of dealers (some more reputable than others) has sprung up to meet this need. What does your group think of all this? Who should own a meteorite? The person on whose land it falls, the person who finds it, or the local, state, or federal government where it falls? What if it falls on public land? Should there be any limit to what people charge for meteorites? Or should all meteorites be the common property of humanity? (If you can, try to research what the law is now in your area. See, for example, http://www.space.com/18009-meteorite-collectors-public-lands-rules.html.)
- Your group has been formed to advise a very rich person who wants to buy some meteorites but is afraid of being cheated and sold some Earth rocks. How would you advise your client to make sure that the meteorites she buys are authentic?
- Your group is a committee set up to give advice to NASA about how to design satellites and telescopes in space to minimize the danger of meteor impacts. Remember that the heavier a satellite is, the harder (more expensive) it is to launch. What would you include in your recommendations?
- Discuss what you would do if you suddenly found that a small meteorite had crashed in or near your home. Whom would you call first, second, third? What would you do with the sample? (And would any damage to your home be covered by your insurance?)
- A friend of your group really wants to see a meteor shower. The group becomes a committee to assist her in fulfilling this desire. What time of year would be best? What equipment would you recommend she gets? What advice would you give her?
- Work with your group to find a table of the phases of the Moon for the next calendar year. Then look at the table of well-known meteor showers in this chapter and report on what phase the Moon will be in during each shower. (The brighter the Moon is in the night sky, the harder it is to see the faint flashes of meteors.)
- Thinking that all giant planets had to be far from their stars (because the ones in our solar system are) is an example of making theories without having enough data (or examples). Can your group make a list of other instances in science (and human relations) where we have made incorrect judgments without having explored enough examples?
- Have your group list and then discuss several ways in which the discovery of a diverse group of exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars) has challenged our conventional view of the formation of planetary systems like our solar system.