Cosmic Distances

Purpose

To use the Scientific Notation Tutor by Quantum Simulationsâ„˘ as a tool to change very large numbers into a more understandable form.

Materials

• Press Release: Voyager Spacecraft Approaches Solar System’s Final Frontier
• Scientific Notation Tutor
• Discovery File Voyager 1
• Discovery File Scientific Notation

Background

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, is about to make history again. It is the first spacecraft from Earth to reach the vast expanse of space where wind from the Sun meets the thin gas that fills interstellar space.

First, Voyager 1 must pass through the termination shock—a turbulent zone that is the source of beams of high-energy particles. Voyager’s journey through this violent region will give scientists their first direct measurements of our solar system’s unexplored final frontier. Some scientists think that the passage has already begun.

Voyager

Launched on September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 explored the giant planets Jupiter and Saturn before being propelled toward deep space by Saturn’s gravity. It is now approaching, and may have temporarily entered, the region beyond termination shock. At more than 13,000,000,000 kilometers (approximately 8,000,000,000 miles) from the Sun, Voyager 1 is the most distant object from Earth built by humanity.

The termination shock is where the solar wind, a thin stream of electrically charged gas blown constantly from the Sun, is slowed by pressure from gas between the stars. At the termination shock, the solar wind slows abruptly from its average speed of about 700,000 down to 100,000 miles per hour.

The information above has been excerpted from a NASA press release that is about to be sent to all of the usual media outlets. The article was written by the public relations department. As head of NASA’s Scientific Notation Verification and Conversion Department your job is to search the entire article for numbers that are 10,000 or larger and convert them to scientific notation.

Procedure

First, print out the press release and examine it for numbers that need to be converted. Before you try to convert the numbers, read the Discovery File: Scientific Notation and follow the directions. Then, use the Scientific Notation Tutor from Quantum Simulations to make sure that you are converting correctly. If you are making mistakes, the Scientific Notation Tutor will help you get the right answer.
The Scientific Notation Tutor can be found at the web address that your teacher will provide to you.

Conclusion

Using the copy of the press release that has blanks in place of each large number, fill those blanks with the correct scientific-notation version of each number.
If time permits, NASA Headquarters has a conversion job that also needs your attention.