Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Biology: "Newly discovered planet may have water on its surface" ....so what?

Just about a year ago a team of astronomers announced the discovery of an extrasolar planet, called Gliese 581g*. What's neat about Gliese 581g is that it may have liquid water on its surface.  When scientists search for water in space, they're looking for just one thing: life.

What makes water so special, and why do we think it's essential for life? These were some of the questions we set out to explore on day 1 of Biology. We started off by observing water's amazing ability to dissolve other substances. The kids prepared strips of filter paper, each one with a different marker color. After placing them in a bowl of water, we watched as the water traveled up the papers and dissolved the inks, revealing surprising bands of different colors.

We talked a bit about the chemical structure of water and how this structure allows water to dissolve substances easily and in doing so helps along the important chemical reactions necessary to sustain life.

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