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Investigation 1 – PreLab









Space exploration provides us with knowledge about the origins of our solar system, planet Earth, and human origins. Exploration within our solar system is important because it provides us with an opportunity to make advancements in science and technology which can be a benefit to all of humankind, such as in the areas of communications and remote sensing. Cellular technology, for example, is dependent on satellite communications. Satellites are also used to monitor changes in Earth’s climate and ocean circulation, for weather forecasting, in aviation and marine navigation, and for military reconnaissance.


Aerospace engineers build satellites and defense systems. They make airplanes faster and safer, design spacecraft, space stations, and explorer robots like the Mars-roving Spirit.


This Investigation is designed to help you to answer the following Focus Questions:

  • What causes the changes in day and night on the Earth? 
  • What causes the change in seasons in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres? 

Note: These questions are located in your SDR at the beginning and end of the Investigation.


As a class, read the Background(s) in the Investigation. When finished, discuss the following concepts as a class:

  • The Earth rotates or spins counter-clockwise on its axis, which is an imaginary line that runs in a straight line from the South Pole through the Earth to the North Pole.
  • The Earth’s axis is tilted 23.5° towards the North Star, Polaris.
  • It takes the Earth approximately 24 hours or 1 day to complete 1 rotation.
  • Earth also revolves around the Sun in an orbit.
  • The Earth’s orbit is not exactly circular but is slightly elliptical.
  • It takes the Earth about 365 days or 1 year to complete 1 counterclockwise revolution around the Sun. 


These terms should be used, as appropriate, by teachers and students during everyday classroom discourse.

  • rotation
  • orbit

Note: Definitions of these terms can be found on the Introduction page to the CELL.

Note: Additional words may be bolded within the Background(s). These words are not Key Terms and are strictly emphasized for exposure at this time.


  • How do you know that you live on a planet in a solar system.
  • Why do you think we experience and observe phenomena such as night and day, seasonal changes, and moon phases.
  • We experience night and day and seasonal changes and observe moon phases because of the forces and the motion that exist in our solar system.
  • During this investigation, you will begin to observe why we experience night and day and why some areas of the Earth experience four seasons.
  • Play the video below. Remember to follow along with your SDR and make any notes that you think might be helpful.
  • After the video, divide into lab groups to discuss strategy for the lab. For example, you may assign certain group members to perform specific functions during the lab.

Note: The purpose of the video is to allow you to anticipate the laboratory experience you will soon encounter. You should leave this PreLab session with a firm idea of what to expect and how to perform in the lab.

Note: Homework is posted below the video.


You should review the Investigation and video in preparation for the Lab.