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What's moving on Titan

  • Key Stage 3
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Information retrieval
Topic: States of matter

On 14 January, space probe Huygens landed gently on Titan, the biggest of Saturn's known moons. One and a half hours later, stunning photos, sound recordings and other data from Huygens reached Earth, giving unprecedented insights into the nature of Titan's alien world. The venture was truly international, with the European Space Agency's probe leaving Earth aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft seven years ago.

There are two student activities – one involves labeling a diagram to tell students on Earth about the nature of Titan. The other asks students to take the role of Titanian space explorers and use data to compare the solids, liquids and gases on Titan and Earth.

Published: 27th January 2005
Reviews & Comments: 6

Learning objectives

Pupils will compare the properties of solids, liquids and gases and appreciate how liquids can change the shapes of solids through weathering.

Try the activity


You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

11 – 14 (KS3)
Particle model of solids, liquids and gases [QCA Unit 7G] - describe and explain observations, using the particle model

Running the activity

Suggested time: 30 minutes. This could be shortened to 15 minutes if students write the newspaper reports at home.

Starter activity: If possible, project page 1 as students enter the class. Ask them to discuss the questions. This page has pictures of Huygens' landing and Titan's surface. The answers to the questions are on page 2, but students can guess at all but the italicized words:
river-delta carved out by methane rain
ice pebbles smoothed out by abrasion with liquid methane
sound of the probe passing through Titan's atmosphere (like wind)

Main activity: Give a copy of page 2 to each group of students. Set the task – students read the article and use the information to label the diagrams.

Next, students can tackle the task on page 3. They take the role of space explorers from Titan, and use data to write a report on differences between Earth and Titan. To meet the curriculum objective, it is vital for students to focus on the states of methane and water on Earth and on Titan. The boiling point of methane is -164C and its melting point is -182C.

For the plenary, ask students to present their reports. Others can give (constructive!) comments.

News links

NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory
This is a detailed and exciting website, which includes pages specially for schools.
European Space Agency
This website includes a great deal of exciting information and some excellent images.
BBC news
This is an accessible report of the Huygens mission and includes excellent animations, graphics and links to other sites.

Reviews & Comments

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