Our solar system consists of the Sun at the centre, with eight planets orbiting around it. There are enormous distances between the planets and the Sun, which you might find difficult to envision. For example, the average distance between the Earth and the Sun is 93 million miles, while the average distance of Jupiter from the Sun is 483,682,810 miles. You can get a better understanding of the solar system by scaling it down for a science project.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Balls of varying sizes made of plastic or other material
- Paint and brush
Get details about the average distance of each planet from the Sun from the NASA link in Resources. Express the distance in astronomical units (AU), which is more convenient than using millions of miles. One astronomical unit is 93 million miles, or the mean distance of the Earth from the Sun. Neptune's average distance from the Sun is 2,795,084,800 miles, or 30.089 AU.
Put yellow paint on a ball made of plastic or other material to represent the Sun, or cut out a circular piece of cardboard and label it as the Sun. Tape a piece of string to the model of the Sun and hang it from the ceiling.
Convert the average distance of each planet from the Sun from AU. to inches, and multiply this figure by 10 inches. For example, the Earth is an average of 1 AU from the Sun, so convert that to 1 inch and multiply by 10 to get 10 inches. Label a small ball or a piece of cardboard as the Earth and hang it 10 inches from the Sun to represent the scaled down distance.
Do the same for each planet, which will be progressively farther away, beginning with Mercury and moving to Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Make sure you have enough room to accommodate the planets near the outskirts of the solar system. For example, the average distance of Uranus from the Sun is 19.191 AU, so convert that to 191 inches. Hang a ball or piece of cardboard representing Uranus 191 inches, or about 15.9 feet from the object representing the Sun.
Tips and warnings
- You can scale down the distances of planets in the solar system in a classroom-type environment, but not their relative sizes. Jupiter, for example is 1,316 times larger than the Earth, which makes it impractical to represent the size of both planets scaled down.
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