Life in Space:
An Astronomy/Astrobiology Unit
For Upper Elementary and Middle School Students

"Introductory Lesson: So What All Is Out There, Anyway?" is in Adobe Reader (.pdf) format. All other lessons open as Microsoft Word documents. This allows teachers to make changes and adaptations for their particular classrooms. Adobe Reader versions of these lessons are available on the Adobe Reader page. You can download the Adobe Reader program here.

Introductory Lesson: So What All Is Out There, Anyway?
This short article for students presents an overview of the Visible Universe.
It is a good introduction to the unit.

Lesson Plan for Teachers
Lesson plan for the above article. Students place different astronomical distances in order from shortest to greatest..

Part 1: Colonize the Solar System

Students select a planet or moon in our solar system and design a space colony capable of supporting human life on it. Part 1 focuses on astronomy and the solar system.

Part 2: Build Your Own Planet

Students choose different physical properties of an extra solar planet that they will explore in the hopes of discovering life on it. Part 2 explores some of the basic themes of astrobiology.

Links and Resources

The Planet Temperature Calculator
(The program requires Macromedia's Flash plug-in.)
This program was created for use by students working on Part 2 of this unit. It calculates a rough approximation of the average surface temperature of a planet based on 4 basic physical characteristics: the mass of the star that the planet is orbiting, the planet's distance from that star, the bond albedo of the planet and the greenhouse effect of the planet's atmosphere. The program opens in a new window.

Parts 1 & 2 are designed to be taught sequentially, but either part can be taught as an individual unit.
The above introductory lesson works well with Part 1 or Part 2.

The development of these lessons has been funded through an EPO supplement to research grant NAG5-11964 Durisen from NASA's Origins of Solar Systems Program. Permission is granted to reproduce the lessons contained on this web site for educational or other non-commercial use. Commercial use of these pages is prohibited without the prior written consent of Glenn Simonelli.

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Background images courtesy of NASA/JPL
Last updated January 23, 2008.