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Investigation 4 – PreLab









Remember that 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.


Astronomers investigate how galaxies are formed and if supermassive black holes live at their centers. They determine the composition of a planet, its atmosphere, and its moons and also help plan voyages to other planets or the moon and explain the missions to the public.


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

  • What causes the orbit of the planets around the Sun and the Moon around the Earth? Why are they important in maintaining the orbit of the planets and the Moon? 

Note: The Focus Question for Investigation 3 and 4 is the same. You will continue to explore the orbit of the planets in Investigation 4.

Note: This question is located in your SDR at the beginning and end of the Investigation.



  • There are no Backgrounds within Investigation 4.



The following list includes Key Terms that should be used, as appropriate, by teachers and students during everyday classroom discourse.

  • Newton’s First Law of Motion
  • force

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.


  • What two factors influence the orbit of planets around the Sun and the orbit of the Moon around the Earth?
  • What would occur if the gravitational pull of the Sun or the Earth is taken away. 
  • Ask students what would occur if the gravitational pull of the Sun or the Earth is increased.

You will investigate these principles through simulations during this Investigation.

  • 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.