Orbit and Rotation is an animation showing the orbit and rotation of Mercury around the sun. By clicking on the "Play: button in the lower-left corner of the animation, you can see Mercury make its counter-clockwise orbit around the sun. Mercury automatically stops at three different points during the animation. When the planet stops, text appears on the screen that indicates how many days the planet has taken to get to that point–both in terms of Earth days and Mercury days. You can also choose to stop the rotation manually, using the "Stop" button. There is an "About this Animation" button in the upper-right corner that you can click on to find out more about the animation, how to use it, and learn more about Mercury’s rotation around the sun.
This tool can be used to enhance the study of the nine planets in the classroom. It is a good resource for observing the orbit of a planet around the sun and it can help students understand how the different planets in our solar system have varying orbital and rotational periods causing their solar days to be long or short.
You may choose to let students simply view the animation without pausing it as Mercury travels around the sun once. Student can take notes on what they observe is happening, both visually and with the data shown in the lower right of the animation. Then, have students play the animation again, this time stopping the movement of the planet manually using the “Stop” button and making some more careful observations of what is happening on the screen.
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