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Make a Model Solar System Science Project



This article gives instructions for making a model solar system science project. It includes two approaches: one simple and one to scale. Suggested extensions are also included. Keep reading for more hints on making a model solar system.

Introduction

This project presents two ways to make a model solar system: one easier and more convenient and one to scale.

To extend the project, you can consider the following:

  • In doing the scale model, get nine people so each can stand by one of the space objects, helping the others to better see the relative distance and the entire distance.
  • Choose various different objects to represent, say, the Sun, and then do the math to figure out the necessary sizes of the other objects as a result.
  • Make a poster or wall display instead of a model.
  • Find other things in the world that correspond to the relative sizes or distances between any set of two space objects and state the relationships as an analogy. For example, the Sun is as much bigger than Venus, as the population of India is larger than the population of Mumbai (roughly).

Make a Model Solar System I

In this project, students make a model of the solar system that attempts only to recognize the proper order of the planets from the sun and the appearance. It makes no attempt to consider scale.

Materials

  • A large piece or poster board or a collection of foam balls of appropriate sizes
  • Markers or tempera paints
  • Scissors
  • A hanger
  • Clear fishing line
  • Single hole punch or skewer

Directions

  1. Choose whether you will work with poster board or foam balls. If you are going to work with the poster board, use rough estimates of size to cut out the planets and the sun. In either case, don’t forget to make a ring for Saturn.
  2. Go to the NASA website http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/index.html and use the photographs as a model for creating your planets. (Include Pluto or not as fits your curriculum.)
  3. When the planets are dry, use the hole punch or the skewer to make a hole in each one through which to tie the fishing line.
  4. Tie the sun to one end of the hanger. Then tie on the planets in order. If the planets would bump, make them higher or lower than their neighbors to give them more space.

Make a Model Solar System II

In this project, students make a scale model of the solar system. In this project, the materials depend upon calculations, so they are not listed first. This version pays attention to scale and order and size, but is not very concerned with appearance.

Directions

  1. Decide whether or not you will be including Pluto in your model. If not, you save yourself a fair amount of distance and you may also be able to work with a smaller scale.
  2. Go to the Exploratorium website http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/solar_system/ Go to the Solar System Model calculator. Enter a diameter for the sun in either inches or millimeters and press calculate to see the scaled size of the other planets and the scaled distance for the radius of the orbit. (Note, “The Earth as Peppercorn” scale model description at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory uses an 8 inch diameter sun, just for reference.) Work with this until you have what you consider to be a workable size for the planets (i.e., you will be able to find appropriate size materials to represent them and the distance for the radius of Neptune’s orbit is not too far for the area you’re going to be working in).
  3. Record the diameters and distances for the scale you have chosen.
  4. Collect objects to represent the sun and the planets that you are including. Consider spices, if they fit your scale. Do not worry too much about roundness - just go for approximate diameter. Appearance (color, Saturn’s ring, etc.) are not of consequence in this model. Line the objects up on a counter or table to get a better idea of the size relationship of the planets and the sun.
  5. Glue any objects that are too small to easily keep track of to, for example, letter size sheets of fluorescent-colored paper. This will make them easier to spot.
  6. Determine how you’re going to measure distance. A pre-measured string? The length of a pace in your gait?
  7. Go to an area that fits the size you need: i.e., you must be able to travel - in a relatively straight line, if possible, but if not, at least in some configuration, as many feet long as the radius of your farthest planet’s scaled orbit. Make sure you bring the chart showing the distances you need. Place the sun on the ground. Measure the distance to Mercury and place it, and so on. 8. When you reach your last planet, turn around and look for the sun. Can you see it?
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