Posted: November 5th, 2022
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Art Project 3 Instructions
To get started:
It will be handy to keep this Instructions page open to refer to as you work with the NASA’s Eyes on Exoplanets and “World Builder” programs, even if you also open windows or tabs for the two programs.
You should also go ahead and open a new document — for what will become your “Explorer’s Journal,” to turn in later — and take notes as you go along through the steps below.
Be sure to work down through the instructions all the way to the bottom. At the end of this project your Explorer’s Journal should contain four (4) images — 3 of virtual extrasolar planets, 1 separate piece of artwork of your own — along with answers to questions and short descriptions as instructed along the way.
Part 1 — Find a Planet!
For this portion of the project we will use the “NASA’s Eyes” app — available for free to run in your web browser, at the following link:
in-browser version: https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/eyes-on-exoplanets/Links to an external site. Links to an external site.
A short introductory sequence will play, showing an overview of the data set of stars in the Sun’s neighborhood, and highlighting which of those stars have been identified as having planets.
After the introduction plays through, you can click-and-drag to move the view around, and look around at the stars that have had planets detected around them (the stars with pointed star icons, instead of just tiny dots). You can scroll up or down to zoom in and out (or use the slider on the far right side of the window in the stand-alone app).
Post-introduction sequence initial starting views for NASA’s Eyes on Exoplanets
Depending on how closely zoomed in on the Sun, or how far outward you are looking from, you may notice a couple of distinct “ray-shaped” or clustered regions of the galaxy in which a large number of planets have been detected around stars in those directions. These are data sets from specific dedicated planet-detection surveys — including, especially, the Kepler mission you learned about in Unit 3 of the astronomy video game. There is nothing necessarily “special” about those specific directions in the galaxy that suggests there are more planets formed around stars there; it is simply a result of the planet detection surveys concentrating their observations in those directions. One could imagine the formation of planets around stars in any given other direction as well — although as you learn in Unit 4, there are vastly more stars within the disk plane of our Milky Way galaxy than outside of it.
You can hover your mouse pointer over any of these stars to see the star’s name (or what looks like a star catalog entry number, in a lot of cases), how many planets have so far been discovered around it, and how far that star is from our Solar System.
There are a great many to choose from. NASA’s Eyes also has a certain few they highlight of particular interest; you can click “Browse Planets” at the top right to look over some.
Click on a star to zoom in on it.
You should go ahead at this point and write down the name of the star you clicked on, in your own “Explorer’s Journal” document, since the NASA’s Eyes program may occasionally reset itself back to the initial “start up” view, or enter a “highlights / tour” mode on its own, if it is left idle for a few minutes. You can prevent this by just interacting with the star or planet, clicking a button, etc. now and then to keep it focused on your chosen target.
Making a note at least of the name of a star you are interested in will help you quickly track it down again, later, using the Search function (magnifying glass icon, along the top) in either the app or in the web browser version — just in case the program’s display resets on you.
You can click on the “Star” button (looks like: ) in the lower right; if these buttons do not appear at first, try refreshing the page.
That information on the star may include…
Name… which may be a stellar catalog number entry in most cases. Recall that a great majority of stars are fainter than those we can readily see with the naked eye from Earth.
Distance from Earthin light-years
Visibilitywhether this star is possibly visible to the naked eye, from Earth (depending, of course, on the sky conditions at a given location on Earth)
Number of Planetsnote: this is just the number so far detected — not necessarily all of them that might be there! (further discussion on that point, below)
Star Typejust like the spectral types we described in Unit 3; i.e., “O B A F G K M”
MagnitudeThis is a function of brightness, but on a logarithmic scale; a lower number on this scale means a brighter light source. Recall the “Inverse-Square Law,” and that we can derive an estimate of the star’s actual luminosity (relative to our Sun’s) if we also have an estimate of its distance from us (which NASA’s Eyes also provides).
The web version of NASA’s Eyes does not show this information, or in some cases it may not be well defined or known, but you can take a look at the video game’s companion “Encyclopedia” page on Stellar MassLinks to an external site. for an idea of what the star’s luminosity (not brightness) may be, based on type.
Massrelative to our Sun’s
The web version of NASA’s Eyes does not show this information, or in some cases it may not be known, but you can take a look at the video game’s companion “Encyclopedia” page on Stellar Mass Links to an external site.for an idea of what the star’s mass may be, based on type.
You can zoom out by scrolling to get away from the star close-up and see the planet(s) orbiting around it; alternatively, in the web version click the “System” button in the lower-right corner.
You can click “Compare with our Solar System” (lower-right in the web version, or middle of the left side in the stand-alone version) to see about how large the planet(s) orbits are estimated to be, compared to the orbital distances of our Solar System’s planets about the Sun.
For the great many of these stars which are lower mass than our Sun, you may be surprised at first at just how close many planets orbit — multiple planets within the orbit of Mercury, for instance. Some of the reasons for this being a common observation — not so surprisingly, in retrospect — are described in more detail, below.
You can also click the “Habitable Zone” button to see a blue-shaded region around the star that estimates the range of orbital distances which may allow for liquid water on a planet’s surface, should it orbit within that region. This is based on a pretty simple calculation that does not include some factors that may contribute to this region being larger or smaller. For instance, our planet Earth might well be a little too cold for liquid water if it were not for having an atmosphere to help retain heat at the surface via the “greenhouse effect”; on the other hand, Venus’ “runaway greenhouse effect” has rendered what might otherwise have been a habitable planet into a super-hot wasteland.
The roughly-estimated habitable zone overlay may not necessarily display for all stars, since it depends on having sufficient data on the star to make those calculations.
Click on a planet to view some information on it.
In the browser version of NASA’s Eyes on Exoplanets, just clicking on a planet by itself only shows a very basic note about it; expand the planet information section by clicking on the little blue + icon next to its name, in the lower-left corner (icon looks like: ). You may need to scroll down (the page) to see all of the information it contains (like below the “artist’s concept” image)
In the stand-alone downloaded version, the planet’s properties appear as it zooms in (or you click the “Planet View” button).
This information on the planet should include…
Planet typeBear in mind that this is a “first guess” based on the limited physical characteristics we can measure, combined with some comparison to planets in our Solar System.
Some of these “nicknames” for planet types — “Hot Jupiter,” “Neptune-like,” “Super Earth,” etc. — just come from best guesses based on the specifics of the star & planet, and comparisons to what we have in our Solar System. A “hot Jupiter,” for instance, is something that may be Jupiter-sized (or even bigger) that is closer to the star than Jupiter is to our Sun. A “Super Earth” might be something that is … sort of around Earth-sized — a little bigger, but quite so large as to enter into the class of a gas giant or “Neptune”-like. A rocky planet, of course, is probably just a rocky planet — perhaps like Mercury, or Earth’s Moon, but could still also be something like Mars or Venus, or… even Earth (in absence of knowledge about an atmosphere). Again the point is: the “planet type” given here is kind of an initial guess, and not necessarily any sure thing.
Planet’s Mass, if known (may be an estimate)
May be expressed in numbers of Earth or Jupiter masses (recall that Jupiter’s mass is about 318× Earth’s)
Planet’s Radius, if known (may be an estimate)May be expressed in numbers of Earth or Jupiter radii (recall that Jupiter’s radius is about 11× Earth’s)
Orbital distance(it may say “Orbital radius,” instead — same thing, for our purposes here)
Expressed in Astronomical Units (“AU”)
Orbital periodIn hours, Earth days, or Earth years, etc.
EccentricityRecall that this is a measure of how elongated (elliptical) the planet’s orbit is; a value of 0 corresponds to a circular orbit, and gets closer to 1 the more elongated it is (like we see for comets, but also for some planets in other star systems)
Method of detection Usually either “radial velocity” or “transit,” although a growing number are found through “micro-lensing” as well
You may search around in NASA’s Eyes for as long as you like, until you find a planet you find interesting.
For this project you are not required to find any specific named planet, or a star or planet of any particular type. NASA’s Eyes updates every so often with a few “featured” planets (look for the “Browse Planets” option at the top of the web version, or in the stand-alone app try clicking either the telescope dome icon for “latest discoveries” or the exclamation-point/spark icon for “extreme planets” and then one of the numbers that appears along the bottom of the window).
You can choose at random, or look around for one you find interesting for some reason.
In your “Explorer’s Journal” document:
Once you have found a star and a planet that you want to work with further, return to the “Explorer’s Journal” document you began, and record the following information for your star & planet chosen in NASA’s Eyes.
Star detailsFill in the first part of your Explorer’s Journal with the following information: (for any of the information in this section, if a property is given as “unknown” in NASA’s Eyes, you may similarly note down “unknown” here as well)Star’s Name (from NASA’s Eyes)
Star’s Type (from NASA’s Eyes)
Distance from Earth (according to NASA’s Eyes)
Number of Planets (from NASA’s Eyes)
Star’s Mass (either from NASA’s Eyes — or, if using the web version, you may look at this linkLinks to an external site. to help make your own best-guess estimate) Be sure to include what units the mass is given in (not just the number) — e.g., fraction or multiple of the Sun’s mass.
Planet Details: Once you have chosen your planet of interest (some stars shown in NASA’s Eyes have multiple planets; you only need to choose one of them), record the following information in your Explorer’s Journal: (for any of these information in this section, if a property is given as “unknown” in NASA’s Eyes, you may similarly note down “unknown” here as well) Planet’s Name (from NASA’s Eyes) This must be a planet in orbit around the same star as you chose, above.
Planet Type (according to NASA’s Eyes)
Discovery Date (from NASA’s Eyes)
Planet’s Method of Detection — if specified (from NASA’s Eyes)
Planet Mass — if known (from NASA’s Eyes) Include what units the mass is given in — e.g., fraction or multiples of Earth’s mass, or Jupiter’s, etc.
Planet Radius — if known (from NASA’s Eyes) Include what units the radius is given in — e.g., fraction or multiples of Earth’s radius, or Jupiter’s, etc.
Planet Orbital Distance — if known (from NASA’s Eyes) Include what units the orbital radius is given in — e.g., astronomical units (AU).
Planet Orbital Period — if known (from NASA’s Eyes) Include what units the orbital period is given in — e.g., fraction of or multiple Earth days, years, etc.
Next, in your document below the data above, answer the following questions about your chosen star and planet from NASA’s Eyes:
In a few words: Why did you select the star that you did?
Note that there are no “right” or “wrong” answers, here; some quick examples: “it was related to one of NASA’s Eyes ‘featured planets,'” or “it was close to our Solar System,” or “it was a multi-planet system,” etc.
In a few words: Why did you select the planet that you did?
Recall that it must be a planet around the same star that you chose.
Again, no “right” or “wrong” answers, here; some quick examples: “it was one of NASA’s Eyes ‘featured planets,'” or “it was in its star’s habitable zone,” or “it looked unlike anything I have ever seen before,” etc.
Again, if there is any information about your chosen star & planet that is asked for in the Journal, for which NASA’s Eyes only says “unknown,” you may write “unknown.”
If you would like to make an educated guess just based on the star’s “type” — that is: O, B, A, F, G, K, or M — this reference tableLinks to an external site. may help you estimate a value.
As a general suggestion: Save your work! If you save your Explorer’s Journal document-in-progress periodically, such as after completing sections like this one, it helps safeguard against any losses or need to re-do sections — just in case your power or internet connection ever gets interrupted, etc.
Next, onwards to …
Part 2 — Build a Planet!
As summarized in the “additional background information” page, there is a surprising lot that we can deduce based on just the few measurements and physical properties like those described in “Part 1” — those factors, combined with an amount of background knowledge (especially example worlds from our Solar System).
For this phase of the project our Penn State team has developed another mini-game, wherein you can create a model of your chosen or customized world. The program can help “bring the data to life,” in that you can begin to play at exploring this world…
… a world which, it bears repeating, is based on a real place …
(or at least as much as we know about it so far, as reflected in the NASA’s Eyes on Exoplanets data set)
The planets in NASA’s Eyes are far away around other stars, many light-years from Earth, and we have only just discovered in the last few decades — probably within your lifetime!
You can use the online browser-based version of our “World Builder” software tool, here (note that it may take some time to load, depending on your network speed):
in-browser tool: https://www.personal.psu.edu/jds255/teaching/World-Builder/index.htmlLinks to an external site.
The browser-based tool is probably the easier option, but if you wish to be able to use it offline later you can download the “World Builder” stand-alone program at one of the following links:
for macOS: https://personal.psu.edu/jds255/teaching/World-Builder_Mac.zipLinks to an external site.
for Windows: https://personal.psu.edu/jds255/teaching/World-Builder_Windows.zipLinks to an external site.
for Linux (or Chromebook with Linux enabled): https://personal.psu.edu/jds255/teaching/World-Builder_Linux.zipLinks to an external site.
Installing the downloadable stand-alone version of our “World Builder” program works just like for the “University of Mars” video game app. When the download completes, you will need to “un-zip” the file and look inside the unzipped folder to click and run the .app or .exe, whichever is appropriate for your operating system.
Note: For macOS the first time trying to open the program may pop up a notice about it being from an “unverified developer,” and not appear to allow you to run it. As with the video game, before, you can bypass this note and run the program anyway.
The simplest fix is to right-click (or press and hold the [control] key while left-clicking) on the World-Builder.app icon instead and then choose “Open”; the pop-up notice may re-appear, but you should have an option showing then to “open” it anyway.
Alternatively, you can try the steps given at this Apple/macOS support site:
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202491 Links to an external site.
Look at the steps given about 1/3 the way down that page, where it says “How to open an app from a unidentified developer and exempt it from Gatekeeper” — valid for macOS versions from about 10.8.x/”Mountain Lion” and onward (alternate link: http://www.iclarified.com/28180/how-to-open-applications-from-unidentified-developers-in-mac-os-x-mountain-lionLinks to an external site. )
When opened, the stand-alone version may display a menu where you can choose how large a display window to use for the program, and what general visual quality setting you want. A higher resolution and/or quality setting may cause the program to run slower on some computers.
Using the “World Builder”:
When the program starts, you will see a basic planet in the center of the screen, a default star in the background, a menu block with top “tabs” on the left, and some output text and an “Explore!” button on the right (example image, below).
By default, the “Star” tab is the initially-active one, on the left-side menu. You can start there, and fill in the following based on the data you recorded in your “Explorer’s Journal” from NASA’s Eyes in Part 1:
Star NameUse the name given in NASA’s Eyes.
Star TypeEnter one of the following, from what was in NASA’s Eyes: O, B, A, F, G, K, or M
As soon as you enter one of those letters, you will see both the background star change and the planet illuminated by that color (also, to varying brightness depending on whether the star’s type has a high or low luminosity).
Next, click the “Planet” tab, in the upper left, to switch modes in the left-side menu. From your notes, you can then fill in and choose fill the following:
Planet NameUse the name given in NASA’s Eyes.
MassEnter the number from NASA’s Eyes, if one was given, that you previously recorded in Part 1.
By default the Planet Builder tool assumes a multiple of Earth masses; if NASA’s Eyes specified Jupiter masses instead, be sure to click the “Jupiter” button to the right of the text-entry box.
If this were unknown, then you can enter any number here — your best guess will do. As a rough guide, …
Terrestrial, “Rocky” or “Super Earth” planets might have masses from a fraction of, to up a few times, Earth’s mass (say, 0.1 up to 10 or so).
Something called “Neptune-like,” at least as we are used to them, may have a mass of tens of Earth masses (let’s say, 10 – 50 times Earth’s mass)
A Jupiter-like planet, at least as we are used to them, are more massive than Neptunes, but maybe only up to about a few tens of times Jupiter’s mass; above about 100 Jupiter masses or so, you start getting into the realm of lower stars’ masses, so better not to enter values above that.
RadiusEnter the number from NASA’s Eyes, if one was given, that you previously recorded in Part 1.
By default the Planet Builder tool assumes a multiple of Earth radii; if NASA’s Eyes specified Jupiter radii instead, be sure to click the “Jupiter” button to the right of the text-entry box.
If this were unknown, then you can enter any number here — your best guess will do. As a rough guide, …
Terrestrial, “Rocky” or “Super Earth” planets might have radii from a fraction of, to up a couple times, Earth’s radius (say, 0.25 up to 2 or 3 or so).
Something called “Neptune-like,” at least as we are used to them, may have a radius of a few Earth radii (let’s say, 4 – 8 times Earth’s radius)
A Jupiter-like planet, at least as we are used to them, are larger than Neptunes, but maybe not much larger than Jupiter is, even if the mass is higher; adding more mass to a Jupiter-like planet may actually cause it to compress smaller. On the other hand, other factors may cause a “Hot Jupiter” to puff out some, so if you are entering a guess on a giant planet maybe only go up to 2 Jupiters or so at the most; beyond that and you get into the realm of the smaller-sized stars.
Orbital Distance — in units of AU
Enter the “orbital radius” value given in NASA’s Eyes if there were one — or any other number here. If you do not know (e.g., if a value were not given in NASA’s Eyes), then just enter any guess. This number does not have to be exactly correct.
You can enter the value given in NASA’s Eyes if there were one — or any other number here. If you do not know (e.g., if a value were not given in NASA’s Eyes), then just enter any guess. This number does not have to be exactly correct.
Check the dropdown menu to the right of the box, and choose Earth days (D) or years (Y).
Surface TypeYou have a few options, here: choose one of Rocky, Desert, Volcanic, Smooth Ice, Cracked Ice, or Gas Giant
You can really feel free to choose any one of them, although from a “physics argument” some of them may make more sense than others; examples…You might not typically expect an icy world very close to a star — such as inside the inner boundary of its habitable zone — but that is not to say it is impossible. If an icy planet were close to a star, perhaps it is because it spiraled in from what was originally an outer orbit, and it is slowly melting or getting vaporized.
A very large and/or very massive planet (anything measured in “Jupiter” units) is probably more likely to be a gas giant than another type.
Atmosphere On/Off, & TypeAgain, you have a few options, here. Click to check or un-check the button if you want your planet to have an atmosphere or not. Un-check it if you imagine that your planet has no atmosphere. There could be an argument for going any of several ways — no right or wrong choice, here; think of notable objects in our Solar System, everything from densely-clouded Venus, to thinly-covered Mars, Mercury with essentially no atmosphere, … and then there are hazy Pluto or smoggy Titan, too.
If you do check the Atmosphere button, a dropdown menu appears — defaulting to a “No clouds” setting. Options include: “No clouds”: you can leave the atmosphere on, but there will just be a low/thin atmosphere “haze” showing up near the horizon in your scene. This may be similar to a place like Mars, Pluto, or another low-mass planet.
“Some clouds”: as its name implies, the scene will include a little more substantial an atmosphere and some cloud effects added in.
“Thick clouds”: with this setting, the sky will be pretty heavily clouded over and hazy, making the scene more lit up like “daytime” as we are used to on Earth. Background objects like stars, moons, or rings will be hard to see.
Click the “Extras” tab to switch to that third mode in the left-side menu.
You can then choose a few more options, including:
HabitableYour planet, based on what is shown in NASA’s Eyes, may lie within your chosen star’s “habitable zone.”
Even for planets that are not “habitable” based on distance from their parent star alone, other factors may make a planet’s surface warm enough to have liquid water…atmospheres and corresponding greenhouse effects (like in the case of Earth)
tidal heating from a nearby other planet or moon (like in the case of Io or Europa, around Jupiter)
internal heat sources like radioactive elements, and/or just high pressures and plate tectonics, volcanoes, etc. (like Venus or Earth, and maybe Mars in the past)
Note that “Habitable” does not necessarily mean “Inhabited”; just because liquid water may exist on the planet’s surface, 1) does not mean that it does, and 2) is no guarantee that the surface can support living things
Regardless of reason, you may click/check this button if you want to switch out your surface type to one that includes a surface ocean, and simulates some simple vegetation on the land surfaces
Note: If you do choose “Habitable” then this will override and replace your surface type choice from the “Planet” tab, before.
RingsClick or check this button to add a ring system to your planet — just for fun!
Remember that at least in our Solar System the gas giants all have rings, and the terrestrial planets do not (at least not “substantial” or permanent rings) — but this may not always be the case. Earth, for instance, might have (or have had) a ring, temporarily, in the wake of a large asteroid impact or near-miss by something. A few processes might lead to rings around different types of objects.
MoonsOptions include: No moons, 1 moon, 2 moons, or “Many moons.”
Again, there are no “correct” answers here, although remember that at least in our Solar System, the gas giants tend to be the ones with many moons while the terrestrial planets have a few or none.
An exception of course — somewhat to our surprise, initially — is little icy Pluto, which has five (at least)!
Do not click the “Explore” button, yet!
Turn your attention, briefly, to the panel on the right side of the “World Builder” program window.
You can see the star’s luminosity and temperature noted, here, based on what star type you specified earlier in the “Star” tab.
Below those, you can see the estimated planet’s surface temperature calculated as well. This is from a very simplified calculation, based in part on assumptions of how light absorbing/reflecting the planet’s surface may be. It is not necessarily accurate (and could be wildly inaccurate), but can give you some idea of what it might be. Major factors are, naturally, things like the star’s luminosity and the planet’s distance from it. Some surface types may be dark and absorb more light — and heat up — than others. While atmospheres may help retain heat on a planet, bright white clouds might have a partial cooling effect. Think of the difference between wearing black or white clothing on a bright sunny day, or of walking barefoot on either a dark road surface versus light beach sand, and so on.
Below surface temperature is a calculated surface gravity (using the familiar formula from Newton’s Laws).
Back to your “Explorer’s Journal” document:
Before going any further, return to your “Explorer’s Journal” document and answer the following questions:
Which option did you choose for the type of surface for your planet?
(options were: Rocky, Desert, Volcanic, Smooth Ice, Cracked Ice, Gas Giant, or “Habitable”)
In a few words: Why did you choose the surface type (rocky, ice, volcanic, etc.) that you did?
As in some of the other questions, there is not a correct answer, here. Just give a sentence on your thinking; this could reflect considering a realistic portrayal on the basis of the “planet type” suggested by NASA’s Eyes
What option(s) did you choose for atmosphere on your planet?
(examples: no atmosphere, thin atmosphere with no clouds, some clouds, thick clouds)
In a few words: Why did you choose the atmosphere type that you did?
Again, there is no single correct answer, here. Just give a sentence on your thinking; this could reflect considering the “planet type” suggested by NASA’s Eyes.
What was the estimated surface temperature (in K) for your planet?
(from the right side of the Build Mode window in the World Builder tool)
In a few words: Does your planet’s estimated surface temperature suggest that it could be habitable, as we know it?
That is: Do you consider it likely that liquid water could exist on its surface for long periods of time? Could any kind of life that we know about on Earth possibly survive there?
Recall that 273 K corresponds to 0˚ C (“freezing”), and 373 K would be water’s boiling point — although for water those points can also vary, depending additional factors like air pressure or dissolved mineral content, etc.
Just make your best guess, and explain your reasoning with a few words. There is no definite correct or incorrect answer, here.
What is the calculated surface gravity for your planet (relative to Earth)?
(from the right side of the Build Mode window in the World Builder tool)
What do you think your planet may be made of?
Just make your best guess — and give a short reason for that guess, in a few words.
Some examples: “rock and metal, because it is small and close to its star,” or “mostly ice, because the surface temperature is so low,” or “mostly gases like hydrogen and helium, because NASA’s Eyes categorized it as a ‘Hot Jupiter,'” etc.
Again: be sure to save your Explorer’s Journal work-in-progress after completing sections like this.
At last, it is time to …
Part 3 — Explore a Planet!
Now you can click that shiny “Explore!” button on the upper-right side of the window, and be transported to a little “landing site” on your custom-built world.
If this does not seem to work, and instead you see a note about “Please complete data entry!” under the “Explore!” button: Click back through the “Star,” “Planet,” and “Extras” tabs and be sure all the blanks have been filled in, and any other selections made. Then try clicking “Explore!” again.
Player controls for this part are much as you have used before in the “University of Mars” video game:
You can turn the “on-screen help” display on or off by tapping the [H] key.
Whether you choose to explore on foot (in a spacesuit), in a land vehicle, or flying in the ship, use either your arrow keys or “W-A-S-D” keys to steer or move around.
You can switch between modes by tapping the number keys:  for an astronaut in a spacesuit, on foot;  for a surface rover;  for a spaceship.
In the case of the spacesuit, you can look around while walking or standing still by moving the mouse.
If you fly (or fall) too far from the starting location, the game will turn you back towards the starting point.
If you wish to return to the “Build Mode” to try out something else, just press the [escape] key. Your previous settings will not be restored, but remember that you can look back up in your Explorer’s Journal to see what your previously-entered data and options were.
Image 1 for your Explorer’s Journal:
Be sure to take a screenshot of exploring your planet with your avatar (or vehicle)!
The screenshot image should be of the “World Builder” after you have entered “Explore!” mode, and not a picture of the data-entry/options-selection “build mode” before that.
Paste a copy of this image in your Explorer’s Journal, labeled “Image 1,” below your recorded data and short answers to the questions above.
While exploring, you may take note of how your player reacts to the gravity setting. You might find you can jump higher or not as high as “normal.” Also look around and see what effect the star’s type, and the planet’s distance from it, have on the lighting in the scene.
In your Explorer’s Journal below your first included screenshot, answer these questions about your re-created NASA’s Eyes planet:
In just a sentence, or two: What, generally, is the visibility like on your world?
You might remark upon whether the scene is brightly or dimly lit, what colors are dominant, whether you can see stars or other objects in the sky or if it is too bright or too cloudy, and so on.
How well can you move around?
Just a quick remark about whether your character or vehicles feel like they can move freely or not, depending on how the gravity turned out.
In a few words: Would you consider your planet a suitable target for an actual landing, or up-close/in-depth exploration in general?
examples: “Yes, because it may be habitable,” or “No — I think it would be too dangerous,” etc.
Based on everything you input from NASA’s Eyes, and your own customization choices: Which object in our Solar System would you say your NASA’s Eyes planet most resembles?
Think back to the various objects you studies in Unit 2 of the “University of Mars” game. Your answer could be a planet, moon, small rocky or icy body, etc.
Moving on to the second major part of this project …
Make Your Own Planet!
Having just made one virtual explorable world based on actual data you are next tasked to build a new custom world, choosing whatever options you would like in order to make a planet you find artistically or aesthetically pleasing.
You can close the NASA’s Eyes program or browser window if you wish; we are done with it for now.
In the World Builder app (or the web browser player) press the [escape] key. If you are still in the “Explorer” mode, this will take you back to the “Build” mode of the program.
The name- & data-entry fields and buttons in the three tabs — “Star,” “Planet,” and “Extras” — will all be reset.
Create a new star, with whatever name and star type you want, and then build an all-new planet.
This time, you do not have to base this on anything from the NASA’s Eyes on Exoplanets data set. This second planet need not be realistic in any way. The point is for you to try to make it look however you would like — using the “World Builder” to create a planetary work of art!
Explore your custom planet!
Image 2 for your Explorer’s Journal:
Take a screenshot of exploring your new all-customized planet with your avatar.
As before, the screenshot should be of the program after you have entered “Explore!” mode, rather than the “build mode” before that.
This time, try to arrange the scene a little bit — placing your character or vehicle in a location on the planet, facing a view you find most interesting.
Paste a copy of this image in your Explorer’s Journal, labeled “Image 2,” below everything from the NASA’s Eyes-related section above.
Below the second planet image in your document, write a short summary of this creation. This should be at least 100 words in total, and include answers to each of the following questions:
What is your new planet’s name?
What is its star’s name?
Do you consider your customized “planetary landscape” an appealing work of art — and why, or why not?
What choices did you make in order to make it appealing — like which choices did you make in the colors, textures, or “extra” features like rings, moons, etc.?
Why did you choose the vantage point that you did? (i.e., the position and camera angle)
In what ways is your planet real
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