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Hands up who's ever orbited a black hole?

Topic: Earth and Space

After 20 years of orbiting Saturn and making wonderful discoveries about the planet and its moons, the Cassini-Huygens probe was recently sent on its dramatic last mission, and deliberately crashed into the planet!

This activity uses the exciting space mission to support pupils to understand the concept of orbits (of planets, moons and satellites) and to link this to their developing understanding of gravity.

What is an orbit? And how does the force of gravity – which makes things fall – keep things in orbit?

Throughout, pupils will relate advances in technology to advances in our understanding of Saturn. This unit could form part of an introduction to the solar system and provide a link to the Forces Programme of Study. Many pupils will be surprised to discover that the Sun itself is in orbit around the centre of the Milky Way galaxy.

Large activity image

• explain their understanding of orbits in the context of planets, moons and satellites
• describe the link between orbits and gravity (in simple terms)
• develop some realisation of the vast scales in the universe
• describe how modern technology such as space probes and powerful telescopes contribute to developing scientific evidence

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