The teacher should have the map of Pluto and Charon either printed in a size that is still readable and accessible physically for the students, or projected onto a canvas at full resolution.
From this step you can choose one or several of the following subtopics designed to a teacher-instructed structured classroom activity with or without the handouts or you can follow the handout in itself. The instructions for the activities are also shown on the handout.
Read Page 1 of the handout with students, asking them to underline any words they do not understand so you can explain them.
Show the map to the class and ask the students why the map representation of the body is circular (e.g., the planet is a spherical body). Explain that the system has only ever been visited by a probe (New Horizons) once, and it could only see one side of each body, and the Southern Hemispheres were in darkness as well.
- Draw the Equator (a horizontal line in the middle of the two circles),
- Mark the poles
- Write the name of the body as a map title.
Compare the cartographic representation with real photograph. (SEE HANDOUT FIGURE ONE) Ask about the differences between the two pictures. Cartographic generalization (simplification) has been used and extra emphasis placed on the important but not necessarily visually prominent features. For planets with opaque atmosphere, the surface is not visible on the photo. Map colors may be different from real colors. Which elements are not on the photo that are present on the map? Why are those elements needed? (NOTE: Alien Creatures are NOT REAL).
Ask the class what geological information (about the landforms) they can see on the map. Name at least one such feature type (See Activity 2 on the handout for a list of them).
Identify/find endogenic landforms that were produced by magma from below the surface (volcanic landforms: volcanoes, lava flows, tectonic landforms: cracks, fractures).
Identify /find exogenic landforms that were produced by processes that operate on the surface in a planet with atmosphere (wind: dunes, deserts, water: weathering, rivers, oceans, lakes, sediments).
Identify /find cosmogenic landforms that were produced by impact processes (impact craters or impact basins made by asteroids or comets coming from outer space).
Activity 2 - Graphic map. Using the map, draw a generalized (simplified) sketch map, showing the outlines of only the largest and most important features (draw several types of features, e.g., cracks and craters). You can use colors and/or lines.
Try to include the following featurs:
Pluto (left circle)
- Glacial: “Heart” shaped frozen nitrogen ice plains (Sputnik Planitia) with cellular terrain and ice mountain peaks
- Southern dark-red coated regions
- impact craters
- tectonic cracks
Charon (right circle)
- Tectonic – Equatorial deep chasms
- Cosmogenic – North Polar red spot (red material coming from Pluto)
- Impact: Few rayed craters, non rayed craters everywhere
Ask students where would they land / build a settlement(s) for more exploration? Which region (or feature) is worth more exploration? Why? What do you want to investigate? What instruments/tools/methods would you use for the investigation? What would you bring with you for this research?
Activity 3 - Your landing site. Where would you land? Which place you find the most exciting for exploration? Find YOUR landing site. Mark it with a symbol. Name your landing site (s). Write down the names next to the symbol.
Ask students to read one name from the map aloud. Ask what they understand from them, i.e. what the names tell them. The names are in Latin as the planets are not part of any country and Latin is considered a neutral international language. Ask students if they like this “neutral” (Latin) naming or name in English (or your language) would be better. You may explain the meaning of the names on the map. You can find the English equivalents in this site: http://planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov/DescriptorTerms
Activity 4 - Names. After the graphic part is finished, create the nomenclature: write the names of the features you have drawn next to the feature itself. Write three names (you can add more later) onto the map. You can use different colors or letters for each feature type (e.g, capital letters for continents, red color for the lava channel etc. – be consistent).
ASTRONOMY, CLIMATOLOGY, METEOROLOGY
Ask students if there is atmosphere on the planet and why they think this
Find weather data (max/min surface temperature) on the map control board or on the handout. Do not confuse coordinate values (0°, 90° etc.) shown on the map with temperature values shown on the control board.
Ask students if there is liquid water or other liquid material on the planet and how do they know that. Compare local temperature ranges (max-min) with freezing / boiling temperature of water. What is the chance of finding liquid water?
Activity 5 - Weather forecast for “tomorrow”, based on the Weather information in the handout. Choose at least three places, and show weather data: display the min/max temperature in your unit (C or F) with LARGE numbers. Consider that on towards the poles it is colder. Next to the numbers, show the weather with a graphic symbol you design: clear (sunny), cloudy, rainy, foggy or any interesting, special weather phenomenon you learn from the handout. Find min/max temperature data on the map’s control desk and additional information on the handout.
Ask students what protective clothing they would need if they were to explore the surface away from their vehicles, using the values discussed previously. For example, they may need oxygen tanks, a suit that maintains room temperature, pressure etc.
Activity 6 - Design a flag (either for Pluto, Charon, or for both as one), and draw it on the map, based on the characteristics of the body (weather, color, geology etc).
Ask students if the creatures, or plants or animals would survive on Pluto and Charon, using the values given in the control panel (temperature, pressure – use the concept of liquid water = habitability: if liquid water can exits, life may (or may not) exist). Explain that no present life forms or traces of past life have ever been discovered on any other planet or moon in the Solar System or outside it on exoplanets, however, there are millions of planets never explored by us. What kind of creatures could exist there? What protection / skills would they need for survival? What would they look like? (e.g., thick fur, or underground animals etc.). What would they eat? How would they communicate with each other? (For example, without air, no sound exist).
Activity 7 – Draw a legend where YOUR symbols are explained on the map. You may group them by process (e.g., exogenic (atmospheric, aeolian), endogenic (volcanic, tectonic) and impact processes). Write down the title “LEGEND” and explain your symbols and indicate which feature it corresponds to.
Homework: Ask students to compose or draw stories using the map’s landscapes as background for the story, and their creatures as the characters of the story. A possible storyline: how the surface became like what it is now? (as told with a story, not scientifically). You can also Illustrate the story.