Mystery Matter

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This interactive demonstration reintroduces learners to three states of matter (solid, liquid, gas), and introduces them to a fourth state of matter, plasma. This activity also explores the importance of plasma in understanding the Sun. This is one of 5 activities associated with the NASA mission IBEX, the Interstellar Boundary Explorer, which is making a map of the Solar System's boundary. If you need an audio version of this material, the file is compatible with screen reading software such as Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Quick Guide

  • Preparation Time: Under 5 minutes
  • Learning Time: 5 to 10 minutes
  • Estimated materials cost: Over $20 per group of students
  • Age Range: Ages 8 - 14
  • Language: English

Materials List (per group of students)

  • 1 beaker or other clear glass container with a large rock inside
  • 1 beaker or other clear glass container filled with ice
  • 1 beaker or other clear glass container filled with water
  • 1 beaker or other clear glass container with lid filled with air
  • 1 additional empty beaker or clear container
  • 1 empty container of different shape than the container holding the water
  • plasma ball
  • image of the Sun with text PLASMA
  • liquid spray smoke (optional)
  • magnet
  • cart or table


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
      • Probes, Satellites and Spacecraft
    • Solar System
      • The Sun
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
    • States of Matter
      • Solids
      • Liquids
      • Gases
      • Changes of Phase
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure
      • Elements and Periodic Table
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
Place and Time


  • IBEX Mission Launch Date
  • Date: October 19, 2008

To use this activity learners need to

  • see
  • hear
  • touch

Learning styles supported

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities




All Rights Reserved, NASA,

Funding sources

  • NASA



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