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

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Lesson/Lesson Plan


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


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • hear
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, NASA,

Funding Source:

  • NASA