Challenge Team Interim Report

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    Team Number: 034

    School Name: Cuba Independant Schools

    Area of Science: Astronomy

    Project Title: Pluto's Orbit

Final Report

Background Information on Pluto
Pluto, the farthest planet from the sun, is a very interesting yet mysterious planet. Pluto makes its rounds through space on a course different from the rest of the planets in our solar system. Because of its elliptical orbit that starts 5,913,520,000 Km from the sun Pluto's temperatures are always sub-zero. The odd orbit it runs causes it to be closer to the sun than Neptune at certain places in its orbit. Pluto has one satellite (or moon) named Charon. Because of this moon we have been able to learn and graph the actual sizes of both Pluto and Charon. From 1985-1990 earth was aligned with the orbit of Charon, so that an eclipse could be observed every Pluto day here on Earth. One Earth day is equal to six Pluto days. This provided the opportunity to construct Albeto maps that defined Pluto's and Charon's surface reflectivity and enabled scientists to make the first accurate determination of the size of Pluto and Charon, including all the numbers that could be calculated from there. Pluto's rotational axis is tipped 122 degrees. It has been said that Pluto was a piece of debris from the tail of a comet that passed through the solar system and it got pulled into our solar system, eventually evolving into a planet. Another theory is, Pluto was previously a planet in another solar system and was somehow knocked out of its orbit and sent on a long journey through space, where the gravitational pull from our solar system adopted Pluto. Of course, our research was unable to determine Pluto's origin, but the project will hopefully present itself to be well thought out, and may provide theories as to where Pluto came from.
Problem Definition
Why is Pluto's orbit different from the rest of the planets orbits? How did Pluto get here? There are a number of possibilities of how Pluto could have arrived in our solar system. For instance, Pluto could have been a large piece of debris in the tail of a comet, that somehow got pulled into our solar system as the comet passed through. Pluto could have been a planet in another solar system that was knocked out by an asteroid or other such object, into our montage of planets and stars. Either way, Pluto seems to be in the solar system to stay and we hope to put together a program to help us better understand its origin, orbit, and current situation.
The program that will accompany this project will consist of many different variables, one of which is the size of the asteroid that will collide with the planet to knock it out of alignment with the other planets. Another is the speed at which this asteroid was traveling at the time of impact. Another variable will be the size of the planet that is being struck, either in mass or square miles. There will also be several formulas involved in this project, including the trajectory of the planet after the collision and a formula that will show the amount of matter lost off the planet as debris. Another formula that may also be necessary is one that will convert light years or miles into degrees so that the measurement of the planet will be easier to understand and comprehend. Using this program it will be with great ease to find out how large and fast an asteroid would have to be to knock a planet off course or into a whole new one.
Computational Plan
#include float planetsize; //size of planet float astrosize; //size of asteroid float astrospeed; //trajectory speed of asteroid float angle; //angle of degrees off original orbit //functions needed Planet_Size(); //will determine the size of the planet Asteroid_Size(); //will determine the size of the asteroid Asteroid_Speed(); //will determine the speed of the asteroid Asteroid_Angle(); //will determine the angle of impact of the asteroid main() { Planet_Size(); Asteroid_Size(); Asteroid_Speed(); Asteroid_Angle(); } Planet_Size() {// will take planet size input in diameter and convert it to square miles } Asteroid_Size() {//will take the size of the asteroid in diameter and convert it to square //miles } Asteroid_Speed {//will take the speed of the asteroid in mph } Asteroid_Angle {//will determine the angle at which the planet is struck the distance the //planet is knocked off course. }
Progress to Date
We have received extensive amounts of information and are always gathering more information to use towards the answer of this problem. We have found the means to write the program and are working energetically at it as we speak. We have learned many interesting aspects about Pluto. We hope to find out more about it. Results you Expect We expect to find that a large asteroid would have been the major reason Pluto has and add orbit. We also expect to find that speeds and directions played a factor in the orbit Pluto has. It is also anticipated to be able to experiment with several varieties.
"Buie Pluto Research". Online (Available) 12/5/98 Moore, Patrick and Hunt, Gary. Atlas of the Solar System. Chicago: Rand McNally And Company copyright 1983 "Pluto & Charon". Online (Available) 11/20/98 "Pluto". Online (Available) 10/15/98 "Pluto," Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia,(1989 ed.) Vol. II, 1276-1277 Menzel, Donald H.. A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company copyright 1964 "Welcome to Pluto Homepage". 11/13/98

Team Members

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Project Advisor(s)