Welcome to the DC Digital Lab!
Discovery Center is temporarily closed, but we wanted to be here for you in this challenging time. Our team has put together a collection of videos, experiments and activities that you can do at home. We are here to help you overcome boredom and learn a few things in the process! Simply click the image or video to start your at home discoveries.
Innie vs. Outie: The Difference Between Inner and Outer Planets
Did you know that the eight planets in our solar system are categorized as either inner or outer planets? The inner planets are the closest to the sun. These planets include Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Astronomers call them “terrestrial” planets because of their hard-rocky terrain. You can compare these terrains to the mountains, deserts, and valleys found on Earth. These planets are considered to be smaller than their solar system counter parts. What makes the planets different to their core is their literal core! Astronomers believe the four terrestrial planets all possess an iron core. The inner planets have less moons than the outer planets. Earth has one moon and Mars has two moons. The orbit of the inner planets is typically shorter. An example of this would be the positioning of Earth in the solar system. Because Earth is the third closest to the sun, it takes one year to fully revolve around the sun. As you get farther away from the sun, it takes the planets longer to revolve.
The outer planets consist of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. These planets are the farthest from the sun. Astronomers call these planets “gas giants”. They got this name because they are much larger than the inner planets and are mostly made of gasses such as hydrogen and helium. Their outer layers are gaseous, and their interior is liquid. The gaseous exteriors can give these planets different color illusions, which is why planets like these appear to be different colors in different space photographs. It is typical for outer planets to have multiple moons. Due to their distance from the sun, the outer planets take much longer to make a complete revolution around the sun. The outer planets are the only planets that can have rings.
You might have heard of the controversy about Pluto being a planet. There are three classifications that need to be met in order to be labeled as a planet: a round shape, the ability to orbit a star and a clear neighborhood. A dwarf planet has two characteristics out of three: the ability to orbit a star and its round shape. The dwarf planets of our solar system include Ceres, Makemake, Humera, Eris, and Pluto. Now that you know the difference between the inner planets, outer planets, and dwarf planets, check out the activities and videos below for more fun!
Colorful Planet Art
- Foaming Shaving Cream
- Food Coloring/Water Color Droppers (if using water colors)
- Tooth picks
- Shallow bowl
- Paper plate
- Glue (optional)
- Pipe cleaner (optional)
- Look back at what you learned about the inner, outer and dwarf planets. Write down the characteristics you want and classify it as an inner, outer or dwarf planet.
- Once you decided what type of planet you want, its time for the fun to begin!
- After all your materials are gathered you can begin to put whipped cream in a bowl, or on a clean flat surface.
- When you put down the whipped cream you can dot the food coloring with the colors of your choice.
- To achieve a marbled effect similar to Jupiter, you can use a straw or a pencil to make lines are swirls in the shaving cream.
- Once the shaving cream looks how you want it, you can gently place your paper plate on top of the whipped cream.
- Gently take the plate off of the shaving cream and scrap off the excess.
- Leave out to dry.
Solar System Mobile
- Paper plates
- Printable cut out of planets (Provided)
- Any coloring utensils
- Hole punch
- Before you cut out your planets it would be easier to color them in first.
- After you cut out the planets, you can punch a hole in every planet. These holes will be used to tie off with string so you can attach them to your paper plate.
- Before you punch your holes in your paper plate think about the order at which the solar system runs. Remember that the sun would be the first item.
- You should cut your string into 9 different length going from smaller (closest to the sun) to longer (farther from the sun)
- Once you have your colored planets and string, you can start tying the planets in the order of our solar system
Video Experiments and Activities
DIY Science PDF experiments
Virtual Critter Corner