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Answers to Exploration Questions: Planets

1. Explain the difference between the Kuiper Belt and the Asteroid Belt. Are any bodies within these regions considered planets? Why or why not?
Answer: Asteroid belt is a region of rocky bodies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The Kuiper Belt is a region of icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune. Bodies within these regions are not considered planets because there are so many objects within these regions. In order to be a planet, there would need to be one main body within the region.
2.**In this diagram of a rocky planet, what does the black circle in the center represent? How did it form?**
Answer: The central black circle in this diagram represents the planet’s iron-rich core. It formed through the process of differentiation, in which heavier elements like iron sank to the center and lighter elements floated up to the form the outer rocky layers.
3. Identify the feature and planet shown in each image below. What do these two images have in common? How are they different?
Answer: Earth is shown on the left and Jupiter is shown on the right. The common feature shown is a hurricane. Though the hurricane on Jupiter resembles the one on Earth, it is far more powerful and up to a hundred times larger.
4. If Curiosity rover finds what it’s searching for on Mars, is it possible that life exists — or once existed — on that planet? Explain your answer. In your answer, consider the requirements of life and what has been found on earlier Mars missions.
Answer: The Curiosity rover is searching for organic carbon at Mount Sharp. If they find carbon, it is possible that life exists, or once existed, there. Earlier missions found signs of water, and, like Earth, Mars receives energy from the Sun. This would mean Mars once had the three primary needs for life: water, an energy source, and carbon.

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