In this activity, students create a scale model of the Solar System to help them understand distances in space.
By the end of this activity, students should be able to:
- get a feel for the huge distances involved in astronomy
- understand that measurement is an important part of science
- use a range of measurements, from mm to light years.
Download the Word file for:
- introduction/background notes
- what you need
- what to do
- extension idea
- student handout.
Nature of science
Understanding measurement is an important part of science, and this activity involves measurements from millimetres to light years, as well as relative scales. Even if you cannot visualise distances as big a light year, it helps if you just get a feel for such big numbers.
You can choose any scale you like for your model Solar System. This website lets you enter any size for the Sun, then calculates the scale distances to the planets and beyond. Note that this requires Abobe Flash to access.
See this fascinating real time, real data orrery from NASA – note that you will need to click on the spinning solar system icon in the top menu bar to launch it.