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Planetary Magnetism Science: Modeling Planetary Magnetism
written by Rebecca E. Vieyra and Ramon Lopez
edited by Caroline Hall
This hands-on activity for introductory physics is designed to help students form a deeper understanding of planetary magnetic fields by building physical models and using a smartphone app as a magnetometer to map magnetic field vectors. Students work in groups to model two very different planets: one mimics the strong magnetic field of Earth; the other mimics a Mars-like planet without an active, robust magnetic field. The smartphone magnetometer will be used to visualize a planetary dipole field (representing Earth) and a Planet X with a disordered planetary field comprised of localized remnants of magnetization in the crust (similar to Mars). Students will engage in scientific reasoning to explain why planetary magnetic field vectors vary and how the presence of a magnetic field is essential to life on a planet's surface.
Editor's Note: This cross-disciplinary lab meets NGSS standards in three domains: Earth Systems, Physical Science-Forces, and Waves-Electromagnetic Radiation. It's a great way to introduce the importance of Earth's magnetic field in sustaining life on our planet, and to discuss whether there are viable "Planet B" options for human habitation in our solar system.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
- Solar System
= Earth
= Mars
Education Foundations
- Learning Theory
= Representations
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Cooperative Learning
= Inquiry Learning
= Modeling
- Technology
= Multimedia
Electricity & Magnetism
- Magnetic Fields and Forces
= Magnetic Fields
- Magnetic Materials
= Magnetic Magnetization
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Laboratory
= Student Guide
- Assessment Material
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- Laboratory
- Assessment
- New teachers
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© 2020 Temple University and American Association of Physics Teachers
Earth magnetic field, dipole, dipole field, magnetic dipole, solar wind
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created January 15, 2020 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
June 7, 2020 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
September 1, 2020

Next Generation Science Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Types of Interactions (PS2.B)
  • Forces at a distance are explained by fields (gravitational, electric, and magnetic) permeating space that can transfer energy through space. Magnets or electric currents cause magnetic fields; electric charges or changing magnetic fields cause electric fields. (9-12)
Electromagnetic Radiation (PS4.B)
  • When light or longer wavelength electromagnetic radiation is absorbed in matter, it is generally converted into thermal energy (heat). Shorter wavelength electromagnetic radiation (ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays) can ionize atoms and cause damage to living cells. (9-12)
Earth Materials and Systems (ESS2.A)
  • Evidence from deep probes and seismic waves, reconstructions of historical changes in Earth's surface and its magnetic field, and an understanding of physical and chemical processes lead to a model of Earth with a hot but solid inner core, a liquid outer core, a solid mantle and crust. Motions of the mantle and its plates occur primarily through thermal convection, which involves the cycling of matter due to the outward flow of energy from Earth's interior and gravitational movement of denser materials toward the interior. (9-12)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Cause and Effect (K-12)
  • Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system. (9-12)
Systems and System Models (K-12)
  • Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales. (9-12)
Structure and Function (K-12)
  • The functions and properties of natural and designed objects and systems can be inferred from their overall structure, the way their components are shaped and used, and the molecular substructures of its various materials. (9-12)
Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems (1-12)
  • Science assumes the universe is a vast single system in which basic laws are consistent. (9-12)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Developing and Using Models (K-12)
  • Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. (9-12)
    • Develop a model based on evidence to illustrate the relationships between systems or between components of a system. (9-12)
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (K-12)
  • Planning and carrying out investigations in 9-12 builds on K-8 experiences and progresses to include investigations that provide evidence for and test conceptual, mathematical, physical, and empirical models. (9-12)
    • Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly. (9-12)
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Record Link
AIP Format
R. Vieyra and R. Lopez, , 2020, WWW Document, (https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15337&DocID=5250).
R. Vieyra and R. Lopez, Planetary Magnetism Science: Modeling Planetary Magnetism, 2020, <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15337&DocID=5250>.
APA Format
Vieyra, R., & Lopez, R. (2020). Planetary Magnetism Science: Modeling Planetary Magnetism. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15337&DocID=5250
Chicago Format
Vieyra, Rebecca E., and Ramon Lopez. "Planetary Magnetism Science: Modeling Planetary Magnetism." Edited by Caroline Hall.. 2020. https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15337&DocID=5250 (accessed 21 May 2024).
MLA Format
Vieyra, Rebecca E., and Ramon Lopez. Planetary Magnetism Science: Modeling Planetary Magnetism. 2020. 21 May 2024 <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15337&DocID=5250>.
BibTeX Export Format
@techreport{ Author = "Rebecca E. Vieyra and Ramon Lopez", Title = {Planetary Magnetism Science: Modeling Planetary Magnetism}, Month = {September}, Year = {2020} }
Refer Export Format

%A Rebecca E. Vieyra %A Ramon Lopez %T Planetary Magnetism Science: Modeling Planetary Magnetism %E Caroline Hall, (ed) %D September 1, 2020 %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15337&DocID=5250 %O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Report %A Vieyra, Rebecca E. %A Lopez, Ramon %D September 1, 2020 %T Planetary Magnetism Science: Modeling Planetary Magnetism %E Hall, Caroline %8 September 1, 2020 %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=15337&DocID=5250

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Citation Source Information

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