Planetary Geophysics at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics

Planetary Geophysics

Science Olympiad: Solar System

Over the past 30 years, Science Olympiad has grown from a collection of motivated high school teachers to the nation’s premier team-based science competition for middle and high school students. With more than 240,000 students competing on over 6,000 teams, the National Science Olympiad provides a critical first exposure to cutting edge science for a group of geographically, economically, and ethnically diverse group of students. These students disproportionately pursue undergraduate and graduate education in science, technology, engineering, and math, often specializing in the specific subject areas in which they first competed.

This year the Earth and Space Science Committee for the National Science Olympiad has created a planetary science event, which focuses on the observation and understanding of features and processes relating to extraterrestrial ice and water in the solar system. The event – referred to simply as “Solar System” in official Science Olympiad rules, competitions, and resources – will run for two competition seasons (2013–2014 and 2014–2015) as an event for 6th through 9th grade students. The event is sponsored by the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (Contact UTIG).

The Solar System event tests students on their ability to “demonstrate an understanding and knowledge of the properties and evolution of extraterrestrial ice and water in the solar system.” It focuses on specific targets that include, but are not limited to: Mars (polar ice caps, equatorial glaciers, permafrost), Europa (Thrace Macula, Thera Macula, Conamara Chaos, ridges, cycloids, plains, ocean, plumes), Enceladus (plumes, tiger stripes), Iapetus, Triton, Ceres, Titan, comets, the Kuiper Belt, and the Oort Cloud. In the event, students are asked to complete one or more hands-on or interpretive tasks selected from the following topics: i. History and formation processes of specific features listed above, ii. Remote sensing, imagery, and satellite measurements of the features listed above, iii. Physical, thermal, and chemical properties of potential habitats for life, iv. Past, current, and planned future missions to explore these objects, and v. Phase diagrams and different crystalline forms of water ice.

National Exam:

Example Questions:

Example Tests:
Solar_System_Guide_2.pdf - Solar System Annotated Sample Test

Resource Presentations:

Mars Reconnaissance Rover (

Mars Exploration Rovers (

NASA JPL Mars Express (

ESA Mars Express (

PBS Habitability of Mars (

Europa: NASA Galileo Mission (

JUICE - JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (

Destination Europa (

Life on Europa? - (

Oceans in the Outer Solar System (

PBS Habitability of Europa (

ESA Cassini-Huygens (

NASA Jet Propulsion Lab Cassini Solstice Mission (

Snows of Enceladus-Europlanet (

NASA Jet Propulsion Lab Cassini Solstice Mission (

DAWN Mission - The Beginning of the Solar System (

NASA Jet Propulsion Lab Cassini Solstice Mission (

Oceans in the Outer Solar System (

PBS Habitability of Titan (

Evolution of Comets into Asteroids (

Oort Cloud & Kuiper Belt:
NASA Kuiper Belt & Oort Cloud (

AAVSO Science Olympiad Site (

NASA's Solar System Exploration (

Ice in the Solar System (

Habitable Worlds Table (

Habitable Zones-PBS (

Extreme Life - California Academy of Sciences (

CFA Webinars (