Great Planet Debate

What kids wanted to know



I was pleased to hear that Pluto had been selected. Can HST measure the visible and other spectra of Pluto to determine its chemical composition or that of its atmosphere? I am curious to see if Pluto is merely a large Chiron-like object or a "real" planet. If so, which instruments could be used?

There is still a lot of interest in Pluto because so little is known about it. They are really interested in the atmosphere turning to frost. (We've been using snow's reflectivity as an example of a high albedo to describe how Pluto's light and dark spots would tell where the frost is. We have no shortage of snow right now.)

Pluto (preferred by 16% of kids):
What are Pluto and Charon made of? If they are different, why? How did each of them form?

How is Pluto's summer different from it's winter? What is its surface and tiny atmosphere made of? Does Pluto have craters?

Why isn't Pluto gaseous? Did it form is some different way than the other outer planets?

We would like to find out if Pluto is really an escaped moon of Neptune. We also would like to know what Pluto is made of. We want to know how Pluto got a moon half its size. What causes Pluto to be solid when all the other outer planets are gaseous? If you took the ice off Pluto, would it be solid?

Could Charon be another planet?


My pupils are very interested in atmosphere of Neptune. We saw some cyclones and clouds in photos from Voyager 2 when this satellite flown near this planet. One of my students is very interested in moons of Neptune (Triton) and his rings.

My fascination in astronomy are rings of Neptune. vote for Neptune. It is large, has interesting cloud formations and weather systems that seem to change a lot, and is currently the most distant planet.

Our choice is Neptune. we are interested in it's cloud formations and weather patterns. We are quite interested in the practical comparisons between Neptune's and the Earth's weather formations.

The third choice is for Neptune because
1. They want to know what happened to the Great Dark Spot.
2. They want to know about the weather and why the atmosphere is turning upside down.
3. It is bigger than Pluto and even though it is farther away right now, will be larger as a picture than Pluto.

Neptune (preferred by 65% of kids):
What causes the weather systems and how do these processes differ from those on Earth? Are there new clouds or new Dark Spot storms and how are these behaving? How were they generated or formed? Why was the Great Dark Spot black instead of red like Jupiter's big storm? Why might the huge storms disappear, like the Great Dark Spot did? If there is a new storm, what is it made of, how large is it, and how fast are its winds swirling? Do storms and clouds appear all over the planet, or just at certain locations? Do they move and, if so, why? Why and how did Neptune's weather system "turn itself upside down," as Dr. Hammel described?

What are the rings made of and how might they have formed? Why are they clumpy? Why don't they melt or dissipate into space? Why does Neptune have faint, small rings and Saturn have large, brilliant ones? Can studying Neptune's rings tell us why the Earth and other rocky planets don't have rings?

What are the atmosphere, clouds, and Dark Spot storms made of? What is the surface temperature of Neptune? How deep is the gaseous atmosphere? Why are Neptune and the outer planets (except Pluto) made of gas and the inner ones of rock? Does Neptune have a solid or rocky core? How large is it, what is it made of, and is it hot or cold? to view Neptune. We want to see if the Dark Spot is there or if it has again changed hemispheres.

Neptune generated a lot of interest because of its weather system. How are storms formed? Do storms appear all over the planet? Do they move around the planet from one area to another? Is the Dark Spot the same as the one that was seen before (just moved) or is it totally different? What are the rings made of?

Neptune was our second choice. (A close second.) We want to know more about the Great Dark Spot - when and how it was formed. Maybe we can find out why it moves. Maybe we can see if there is another planet beyond Neptune. We would like to know what cause Neptune to be blue. Why does Neptune orbit a different direction than its moons? We want to study Neptune because its atmosphere is unexplored. We don't know much about Neptune, which is another reason why we should study it. Also, how hot or cold is the Great Dark Spot? We also want to study Neptune because if another Dark Spot is found, it will be ours! We would like to find out why Neptune is tilted. How were Neptune's rings made?

We want to know if the blue clouds around Neptune have anything to do with the temperature. Why do most people mistake Neptune for a star? We think that it's neat that if you exposed your hand on Neptune, it would freeze-dry instantly. Is that true?