Meet our Neighbour: Planet Jupiter!

:: Description ::

In this activity groups of visually impaired students and their sighted peers are invited to use daily basis items and recycled materials to build a tactile schematic image of a celestial object from our solar system. In a group activity, they are also encouraged to research about our celestial neighbour and its main characteristics.

This activity is planned for groups of children from 6 to 12 years old, and their educators gathered in groups of 3 to 5 children (for example 3 sighted children and two visually impaired). The activity can be implemented at three stages that can be done separately:

  • Research on the celestial object by the children prior to the activity;
  • Build the tactile image in a hands-on performed by the sighted children closely interacting with their visually impaired peers;
  • Tactile exploration of the final schematic image by visually impaired children.

Variations of the activity can also be conducted. For instance, promote activities for sighted children in which they learn and build the tactile images and then promote explanatory sessions to their visually impaired peers.

In all stances, it is strongly advised to stimulate interactions between sighted children and their visually impaired peers.

:: Materials ::

Tactile features present in planet Jupiter and correspondent suggested textures:

  • Great Red Spot: wire;
  • Zones and Belts: thin and thick fabric;
  • Rings: Sand;
  • Black and white prints of image (x2) and mold (x1).Click links to Download.

These materials are only suggestions; all textures can be replaced by low-cost local materials from each community that plans to implement “Meet our Neighbours!”.

:: The Scientist Explains ::

[General Information]
Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. Its equatorial diameter is 142,800 km (11 times that of Earth) and its mass equals 318 times that of Earth. Its average distance from the Sun is 778 million kilometers, and it takes 11.9 years to complete its orbit.

With Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, Jupiter is part of the gaseous giant planets which are mainly composed of hydrogen (H2: 86%) and helium (He: 14%). It is believed that the core of the planet is a solid mixture of rocks and ices of a few times the mass of Earth.

The atmosphere also contains a rich mix of minor gaseous constituents, the most abundant being ammonia (NH3), methane (CH4), phosphine (PH3), and water vapor (H2O). Most of these gases freeze out in the upper atmosphere, forming a dense multilayer cloud cover about 100 km thick.

Jupiter has a powerful magnetic field, ten times stronger than that of Earth. Its magnetosphere – the region around the planet where its magnetic field is stronger than the interplanetary field – is the most extended object in the solar system. If one could see it with the naked eye, it would be appear five times larger than the Moon. Elementary particles (electrons and protons) coming from the Sun are trapped inside the magnetosphere and precipitate onto the atmosphere in the polar regions, creating intense aurora emissions.

[Tactile features]
[While you explore the tactile schematic image you can find:]

Zones and belts
Because of the fast rotation of the planet (it makes a turn in less than 10 hours) and the strong winds above the cloud tops (up to 400 km/h near the equator), the clouds are organized in strips parallel to the equator, called “zones” and “belts” (materialized by alternate fabric strips of different texture on the tactile image). In the zones, the air motion is upwards, and the upper cloud is mainly composed of whitish ammonia particles, while in the belts, the air motion is downwards, and the ammonia cloud is much thinner, allowing us to see the lower orange clouds coloured by sulphur.

Great Red Spot
Another significant atmospheric feature is the Great Red Spot (materialized by the twirling thread on the tactile image), which has been observed for more than 400 years. It is a giant swirling cloud system probably extending several tens of kilometres deep. Its diameter is about three times that of Earth. Its reddish colour is not completely understood, but it is believed to be due to phosphorus- or sulphur-containing minor gases.

Jupiter is surrounded by fifty natural satellites as well as a system of tenuous rings. The four largest satellites – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, called the Galilean satellites – can be observed from Earth with a small telescope. They were discovered in 1609 by the famous Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei. On the opposite, the rings (materialized by the grains of sand along the equator of the planet on the tactile image) cannot be seen from Earth; they were detected in 1979, thanks to long-exposure images made by the Voyager probes as they passed by the planet.

:: Full Activity Description ::

Prior to the activity:

  • Gather the children in groups of 5 elements – visually impaired and non-visually impaired (ideally three non-visually impaired to 2 visually impaired);
  • Present one image per group;
  • Distribute materials accordingly;

During the activity:

  • Close supervision – follow each group and explain each of the tactile elements and their correspondence to the each object feature;
  • Understand the different needs of each group of students to promote interaction between the children during the building of the tactile image – visually impaired children need to be familiarized with the different materials involved;

Building the tactile image:

Print image 08_Jupiter_Image.pdf and 08_Jupiter_Mold.pdf, in a regular black and white printer;

Cut the outer section of 08_Jupiter_Mold.pdf;

STEP 3: Place it on top of the thin fabric and with a pen outline this shape;

Cut the fabric accordingly to the area outlined;

Place abundant glue on 08_Jupiter_Image that corresponds to the cut area;

Place the fabric on top of the glue;


Cut section 1 on 08_Jupiter_Mold (only use this numbered section);

Place it on top of the rough fabric and with a pen outline this shapes;

Cut these shapes accordingly;

STEP 10:
Glue the different sections on top of the glued fabric;

STEP 11:
Curl the thin thread until it has the same size of round shape and glue it on top of the denoted correspondent section;

STEP 12:
Place the glue on top of the dark area denoting the ring and place the sand on top of the glue;

Wait for the image to dry. This may take a while.

:: Exploring the tactile image ::

There are several ways in which you can explore the scientific content of the tactile schematic images.

If you’re presenting the final tactile image to the children, first let them explore and feel the different textures. Questions will arise as the child explores and it is important to guide them. Read “The Scientist Explains” to understand the different features present in the Jupiter’s schematic tactile image.

(1) Start exploring by identifying the different fabrics present in the tactile schematic image; (2) then explore the curled wire representing the Great Red Spot; (3) and ring structure represented by sand.