Modeling the Solar System (Grades 6-9)
We Have Liftoff
| Orbiting The Earth
| Solar System
| More Math Concepts
Data Sheet 1
Data Sheet 2
Data Sheet 3
The goal of this activity is to build a scale model of our
solar system. Often we see pictures of planet whose
sizes and orbits are in proportion, but they are not
on the same scale. To overcome that issue, this activity
includes two parts: 1) building scale models for the
planets, and 2) spacing the planets the appropriate
distances from the sun.
1. Use the diameter of the earth
as the basis on which to build your model. First, determine the sizes of the other
planets compared to Earth. Divide the
radius of the other planets
by the earthís radius to calculate how much bigger or smaller than Earth these planets
are. For example, Uranusí radius divided by Earthís radius is equal to 4.01. This
means that in your model, the planet Uranus should be about four times the radius
or diameter of Earth. Enter these numbers in your table.
Now find a size that works for building your model.
Pick a round object, or make a ball of clay, that you
think would be a good size for Earth. Measure its diameter.
In your model, that length will be equal to 7928 miles.
Given that size for the earth, how big will the biggest
model planet have to be? How big will the smallest model
planet have to be?
Once you have found a size for Earth that is reasonable,
record your scale factor and fill in the lengths of
the scaled diameters for the planets. Find or create
objects that are fairly close to the size that the planets
should be. Record those objects on the chart.
The diameter of the Sun is 863,886 miles. It is the
largest object in our solar system. How many times bigger
is the Sunís diameter than the earthís? Using your scale
factor, if you built a model of the Sun, what would
its diameter be? Do you have any object around you that
would be close to the size of the Sun?
now have a scale models of the planets. You still need
to figure the distance from the Sun for each of the
model planets. And you need to use the same scale so
you get a better understanding of the size of our solar
5. In calculating the sizes
of the planets, you used the diameter of the earth as the unit of measure. Use the
diameter of the earth, 7,928 miles, as the unit of measure here too. For each of
the planets, divide their distance from the Sun by the diameter of the earth to find
out how far each planet is from the Sun in terms of the earthís diameter. Record
your data in the table for each planet.
6. Now use the numbers you just
calculated, the Distance from Sun in terms of the diameter of the Earth, and multiply
them by your scale factor to determine how far each planet should be from the Sun
in your model.
7. Convert your data to other
units to get a better grasp of the size of your scale model.
Will your model fit on football field? Within your city?
Within your state?
Pick a place to be the Sun and find out where you would
have to go to create your scale models of the planets
Mercury, Venus, and Earth.