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Discover a Strange New Planet

Discover a Strange New Planet

Create your own “Strange New Planet” using simple materials from around your home. Then use your senses to explore and make observations with your special planet viewer, just like NASA scientists!

Time Needed:
30-45 minutes
Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade
Space Science
Educator Rating:
Parent Rating:

What I'll Learn

Scientists learn about objects in space by looking at images from telescopes, robotic satellites, rovers, and landers. Learn what scientists look for when they explore new planets.

What to Do

What I Need

What to Do: Step-by-Step Instructions


Before you begin, it’s important to make sure you have a friend, sibling, or adult to help you. Without the other person seeing what you are doing, use playdough or modeling clay to create a planet (or two!). Use various craft materials to decorate your planet. Can you add a scent? Make sure you keep your planet hidden from your partner.

Tips & Tricks:

This activity works best if you both secretly create your own planet – then you’ll both be able to observe!

While keeping your planet hidden from your partner, place it on a stool or empty table. Then cover with a cloth.

Tips & Tricks:

Clear a path for your partner so they can walk completely around your planet. If you made two planets, hide one planet behind the other for a surprise for your partner.

Use a permanent marker to color one side of your plastic bag. Then use the rubber band (or tape) to attach the colored plastic to one end of your cardboard tube. If you want, you can then decorate your observer.

Fun Fact:

When scientists look at objects in space, they use telescopes, which are long tubes with a series of lenses to magnify or enlarge what they’re looking at.

For the 1st observation, have your partner stand 5-6 feet away from the cloth. While your partner is using your special observer to look at the cloth, remove the cloth to show them the planet. Have them look for 30 seconds, then re-cover the planet. Have them write down or draw their observations on a piece of paper.

Fun Fact:

When scientists look at objects in space through their telescopes, the Earth’s thick atmosphere can make the objects look blurry or even make them look like different colors!

For the 2nd observation, remove the colored plastic from your special viewer. With your partner still standing 5-6 feet away, remove the cloth. Have them carefully walk in a straight line, observing one side of the planet before you cover it again with the cloth. They should then write or draw their observations on their paper.

Fun Fact:

This is like a fly-by, when we spend space craft to quickly fly past a planet and send images back to scientists on Earth.

For the 3rd observation, have your partner stand 2-3 feet away from the planet. After you lift the cloth, have them use the special viewer and carefully walk all the way around the planet. Then cover with the cloth. Have them write or draw their observations on their paper.

Fun Fact:

When scientists send orbiters around a planet, they are able to collect a lot more images!

For the 4th observation, have your partner start very close to the cloth. After you lift the cloth, have them use the special viewer to observe one part of the planet. Re-cover after 30 seconds and have them record their observations.

Fun Fact:

This is like a space craft landing on a planet. NASA has successfully landed many rovers and landers on Mars. Rovers like Perseverance can collect samples when they are on the planet.

For the 5th observation, remove the cloth and have your partner use their finger to take a small sample of the planet. Then have them use their senses to observe how it looks, feels, and smells. Have them record their observations.

Fun Fact:

Sometimes scientists collect samples from a planet or other object in space, and return them to Earth for observation.

It’s time to switch places! Now have your partner place their planet under the cloth and repeat steps 4-8 where you do the observing.

When you’re done, discuss your observations with your partner. What shapes, lines, and colors did you see? What did you smell? What could those shapes be on your strange new planets?

Fun Fact:

Scientists makes assumptions about what may be on planets or other space objects based on shapes, lines, colors, and shadows that they see in images. Circles could be craters; blobs could be volcanoes or lakes; squiggly lines could be from erosion; and straight lines could be from tectonic activity, such as quakes.
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