Gravity and the Birth of our Solar System Science Games

5 games

In this series of games, your students will learn the story of our solar system — specifically the Nebular Theory — including the time frame of the birth of the solar system, how the sun and planets were each formed, and what will become of the solar system in the distant future. The Gravity and the Birth of our Solar System learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved student engagement and academic performance in your classroom, as demonstrated by research.

Scroll down for a preview of this learning objective’s games and the concepts they drive home.

Concepts Covered

Most of our solar system’s mass is in the sun, which sits at the center while the planets, moons, comets, asteroids, and other matter orbit it. The oldest rocks found in the solar system are about 4.5 billion years ago, which tells us that is when it was formed. How it was formed is explained by the Nebular Theory, which has four main steps.

First, about 4.6 billion years ago, a giant rotating cloud of dust and gas, called a solar nebula, started to collapse from some massive disturbance in space. Next, as the collapsing nebula spun faster and faster, gas particles started colliding, heating up the nebula at its core.

Then, when the core got hot enough, nuclear fusion started to occur, and the core collapsed, turning into the glowing ball we now call the Sun. Finally, attracted to each other by gravity, pieces of rock collided and stuck together, forming planetesimals, which in turn collided to form the inner planets in a process called accretion. Meanwhile, gas, ice, and dust particles also accreted in the farther, colder parts of the solar system, forming the outer planets.

One reason scientists agree on the Nebular Theory is because they’ve been able to watch other solar systems form the same way. They predict that, in about 5 billion years, our solar system will go through a fifth step: when the sun runs out of hydrogen to burn, it will die like other stars, growing into a massive red giant then collapsing to a white dwarf star.

The most important player in the story of our solar system is gravity. It caused the spinning collapse of the solar nebula and the accretion of the planets, and to this day it keeps everything in our solar system orbiting around the sun.

(Remember, the Nebular Theory is different from the Big Bang Theory — the Big Bang happened 9 billion years earlier!)

A preview of each game in the learning objective is found below.

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