Mini-Makers: CD Saturns

What you'll learn:

How to write your name in binary, ascii, format.
Computers can only store information in a series of 0s and 1s.

Key takeaways:

Using only two digits, 0 and 1, we can write entire novels. 

Saturn is one of those planets that easily captures our hearts.

It has huge rings that are visible with a simple telescope, it is one of the gas giants, and it has some pretty incredible storms to look at. It should be easy to open the door to studying Saturn, and the other planets of our Solar System. However, planets are really far away, and have really hard to conceptualize sizes, and distances. 

Creating hands on projects to learn space science.

If space is so big and vast, how can we possibly do any hands on science with it? Art. I love blending art and science together in general because it creates deeper learning opportunities for kids to really process the material and access it later in life. This is one of those great projects that seems like it is mostly art, but has the perfect size proportions to make you think.

Saturn's rings are really thin.

Saturn is huge, and it;s rings are even bigger. We might be tempted to think about how thick those rings must be as well, but in fact, Saturn's rings are incredubly thin. In fact, if we were to just jet out to space and measure them, they would be on the order of buildings tall. 60-90 feet thick is really quite thin when you think about the fact that the diameter of the rings would span between the Earth and our Moon!

Seeing Saturn through art.

In this project kids will make their own Saturn's that have thin, but wide rings. They can deocrate the Saturns by painting on storms, adding jewels as rocks in the rings, or embelishing with whatever their heart desires.


(Aka cool questions about Saturn's rings to look at while you are engaged in the STEM activity)

What do you think Saturn's rings are made of? Much of Saturn's rings are made up of small chunks of ice and rock with some dust added in. You can have kids find rocks to glue on instead of gems, or even pull out a bowl of rock, dirt and ice chips mixed together so they can feel Saturn's rings.

How big are the rings? Saturn's rings are so wide that if we were to put Saturn between the Earth and the Moon it would span the entire way! In this model we get out to the start of the last ring, the E ring.  The E ring is very wide, starting at the edge of the CD and ending one foot from the center of your ball. This ring is made up of very tiny particles, so small you would not see them with the naked eye if you were visiting. The tiny ice particles are actually from the erupting ice volcanoes on the moon Enceladus.

How did Saturn get it's rings? Scientists believe the rings are from objects in orbit that get a little too close for comfort. Saturn's huge gravity begins to rip these orbiting objects apart as they get closer and closer, turning them into small orbiting chunks, which over time turn into the rings.

How thick are Saturn's rings? Saturn's rings are incredibly thin. For spanning over 250,000 miles, the rings themselves are no thicker than 30 feet. To give you an idea of what that really means, imagine a sheet of paper two miles wide. This is what Saturn's rings would look like!

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