Pluto and Charon – endless opportunities for numeracy and literacy

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With more and more data and amazing images arriving from New Horizons every day, there has never been a better time to look at the two body system Pluto-Charon and embed engaging literacy and numeracy opportunities in your science lessons with learners of all ages.

One of my favourite images for this purpose is the one below (click on it for the source page).

I am sure I don’t need to point out that this is just a superposition of the two heavenly bodies near the surface of the earth, but just in case…

So, if we take this image, for example, we can immediately think of a range of questions to ask our learners and below are a few.

– What percentage of the earth’s diameter are the diameters of Pluto and Charon?

– What is the ratio of the volume of Charon and Pluto?

– How much further from the Earth would Charon need to be in this picture to look as large as Pluto to the observer? (you might need to assume Pluto is in contact with the surface of the earth to make things easier)

– How many Charons could cover this 2D view of the Earth, if around 29 Plutos are needed to cover it?

You can think of many other questions and include gravitational fields and relative motion of the two body systems at A-level too.

In terms of literacy, opportunities to develop descriptive and creative writing are endless here, as well as developing wider communications skills. For example, why not getting learners to make short news reports about the features of the two bodies? Or something to that effect?

Please add your own ideas and questions below.



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