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Types of Critical Thinking Exams Practice Exercises (page 2)

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Updated on Sep 20, 2011

Practice Exercise

Read the following debate, which took place before scientists officially decided Pluto was not a planet, then answer the questions.

Scientist 1

Based on perturbations in Neptune's orbit, the search for a ninth planet was conducted and Pluto was discovered in 1930. Pluto orbits the Sun just as the other eight planets do, it has a moon, Charon, and a stable orbit. Based on its distance from the Sun, Pluto should be grouped with the planets known as gas giants. In addition, Pluto, like the planet Mercury, has little or no atmosphere. Pluto is definitely not a comet because it does not have a tail like a comet when it is near the Sun. Pluto is also not an asteroid, although its density is closer to an asteroid than to any of the other planets. Pluto is a planet because it has been classified as one for more than sixty years since its discovery.

Scientist 2

Pluto should no longer be classified as a planet based on new evidence that has come to light in the last few years. When Pluto was first discovered, nothing was known about its orbit or its composition. Pluto has an orbit that is not in the same plane as the other planets (i.e., it is tilted) and its orbit is more eccentric, or elongated than any other planet's orbit. Pluto orbits the Sun in the outer solar system, and so should be similar in size and composition to the gas giants, but it is not. Pluto lacks the rings that all other gas giants possess. Also, Pluto's moon is larger than any other moon relative to its parent planet. In recent years, new objects have been found which belong to the Kuiper Belt, a region of small solid icy bodies that orbit the Sun beyond the orbit of Neptune and Pluto. A large object called Quaoar has recently been discovered which has a density nearly identical to Pluto, Charon, and Triton. Based on these facts, I conclude that Pluto is a Kuiper Belt object.
  1. Scientist 1 states that "Based on its distance from the Sun, Pluto should be grouped with the planets knows as gas giants." Which of the following statements made by Scientist 2 opposes Scientist 1's belief that Pluto is a gas planet?
    1. Pluto's moon is larger than any other moon relative to its parent planet.
    2. A large object called Quaoar has recently been discovered which has a density nearly identical to Pluto, Charon, and Triton.
    3. Pluto has an orbit that is not in the same plane as the other planets (i.e., it is tilted) and its orbit is more eccentric, or elongated than any other planet's orbit.
    4. Pluto lacks rings that all other gas giants possess.
  2. What do both scientists agree upon?
    1. Pluto is like Mercury.
    2. Pluto is a Kuiper Belt Object.
    3. Pluto orbits the sun.
    4. Charon is a planet.
  3. Which of the following are reasons why Scientist 2 believes Pluto should NOT be classified as a planet?
    1. Pluto has no atmosphere.
    2. Pluto is similar in composition to Quaoar.
    3. Pluto has the most eccentric orbit of all the planets.
    4. Pluto's orbit is not in the same plane as the orbits of the other planets.
    1. II, III only
    2. I, III, IV
    3. III, IV only
    4. II, III, IV
  4. Based on composition and density, Pluto is a
    1. Kuiper Belt Object.
    2. Earth-like planet.
    3. comet.
    4. gas giant planet.
  5. Based on the information presented by Scientist 2, what is a possible origin for Neptune's moon, Triton?
    1. Triton is a natural moon of Neptune.
    2. Triton is a captured Kuiper Belt Object.
    3. Triton is a captured asteroid.
    4. Triton is a captured comet.
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