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Astronomy: Galileo’s Historic Discovery of Jupiter’s Moons, an Interactive Model

This lab activity explores how Jupiter's four largest moons appear from Earth as they move in their orbits. What instrument allowed Galileo to make this discovery? How could he tell the difference between starts, planets, and moons when they all appear as tiny dots of light? Why was this discovery so historic?


Questions Addressed

❑ What was Galileo’s historic discovery and why was it such a departure? 

❑ How could he identify tiny dots of light as stars, planets, or moons?

❑ What new-fangled technology did Galileo need to make this discovery?


Concepts Addressed

♦  Galileo discovered four moons of Jupiter by studying their movements on subsequent nights.

♦  Jovian moons have different orbital periods.

♦  Jupiter’s moon’s apparent positions change from night to night.


Standards Addressed


TEKS 6.11A



Materials Needed

Basketball plus 4 smaller balls; string; tape; digital camera (preferred), plastic bowls can be helpful to hold basketball.

Teaching Time 

This lab takes about 40 minutes (more with writing assignments)


Answer Key

Extensive teacher notes address the many questions that come up. You shouldn’t have to do outside research on this topic unless you want to. 


Student Sheets

• Scaffolded writing prompts & lab reporting 

Astronomy: Galileo’s Historic Discovery of Jupiter’s Moons, an Interactive Model


    Answer Keys and Teacher Notes address most questions and issues that might arise in this study—you shouldn’t have to do any outside research unless you want to.

    Connect with me: If you have questions or problems, please let me know and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.


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