The universe hosts a wide variety of objects, like nebulae, galaxies, stars, worlds, and even human-made spacecraft! Scientists often use visual clues to identify objects in space.
When a scientist looks out into space with a telescope, there’s literally a whole universe of objects to observe. Just like in this activity, scientists sometimes start by asking “What does it look like, and how is it different from other objects?” Although we can see differences between some objects using just our eyes, NASA scientists also use powerful tools, like telescopes, to gather more detailed information and create pictures and images.
Scientists use a wide range of criteria, such as shape, color, brightness, size, and distance, to sort and categorize the objects they see. Sometimes it’s easy to categorize the objects they see. Sometimes it’s easy to categorize an object and sometimes it’s more difficult. Seen through a space telescope, a star looks nothing like a nebula. But what makes one nebula different from another? Does its shape provide information about what’s happening to its clouds of dust and gas?
Scientists rely on a variety of tools as they explore our universe. The tools that scientists use to look at objects in space often provide us with stunning images. While some of the images in the Space Quest Game are artistic interpretations, most are real images produced by ground and space-based telescopes. NASA and other space programs have sent many spacecraft across our solar system to collect data and images about planets and moons. Objects outside of our solar system are harder to reach, so researchers use powerful space telescopes to study them, producing some of the most vivid images we have!
Before You Begin This Activity:
Join Astrophysicist Katherine Kornei as she explores what objects scientists find in space and the tools that they use to find them. This is a good video to watch before taking part in the Space Guess Quest game!
Go to the Space Guess Quest Gaming Board and Gaming Cards. Print off (2 copies) of the gaming board and (one copy) of the gaming cards. Then cut-out the gaming cards. Laminating the gaming board and cards will help preserve the game longer.Game Instructions:
- The Space Guess Quest game requires two players. Each player should have a board.
- Place the gaming cards face down in one pile. Each player should draw a card from the pile. Do not show the other player your card – it is your mystery object.
- Take turns asking yes-or-no questions to figure out what the other player’s mystery object is.
- If a player guesses the other players mystery object correctly, they then collect the other player’s card. The other player then has to draw another object.
- Repeat the steps until a player has 10 cards in total. The first player to 10 cards wins!
Here are some tips and helpful questions you can ask each other:There are five categories of space objects. Pick a category and ask if the other player’s card belongs to it. For example, “Is your mystery object a nebula?”Try to narrow down large categories, and then get creative. For example, “Is your mystery object inside our solar system?”Ask about recognizable physical features. For example, “Is it round?” or “Does it have an unusual shape?”As you get closer to your final guess, ask about more detailed features like colors or surface features, or the number of solar panels on a spacecraft.
This activity is brought to you through a collaborative partnership with Discovery Station and the NISE Networks. Discovery Station was awarded the Explore Science: Earth & Space physical toolkit for 2020.