Reflection: Developing a Conceptual Understanding Going Full Circle on Gravity and Orbits - Day 2 - Section 2: Orbital Graphing


Most students are able to complete this activity without any problems. I remind students to keep their axis intervals even and to graph the AU (astronomical unit) data on the x-axis for the orbital distance. The student work sheet on orbital graphing first shows an example of a student who is successful in the assignment. They concluded from the graph that Pluto has a period of 250 years (actual is 248, so this is a very good estimate) and that period and radius are directly proportional. 

An error that I saw a few times is that some students did not read the directions or plotted the wrong data. The second example shows a student who plotted period versus orbital radius (you must download the file to see the second example). Yet they where able to correctly predict the orbital period of Pluto, I am not sure how they did this with the given info.

The students' hypotheses on why there is a halo of satellites around Earth were almost all incorrect. Students need more support to correctly conclude that the halo is the radius where satellites have a period of 24 hours and are thus in a geostationary orbit. This led me to change the assignment for future classes and I detail the changes in the next section.

  Developing a Conceptual Understanding: Student work
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Going Full Circle on Gravity and Orbits - Day 2

Unit 2: Forces in Two Dimensions
Lesson 14 of 16

Objective: Students determine that satellites in a certain orbit are geostationary based on observations and what they know about orbital periods.

Big Idea: There is one radius where a satellite's orbital period matches the rotation rate of the body and, if it is over the equator, it is a geostationary orbit.

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2 teachers like this lesson
Orbiting Bodies, Science, gravity (Physics), Physical Science, orbital motion, centripetal force, physics, satellites, Forces
  50 minutes
j track
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