Scale Model of the Solar System

I’m going to teach you how to make a super simple scale model of the solar system so your kids can get a feel for the size of our solar system and how far apart the planets are from each other.

Scale model of the solar system

First you’ll need to make some planets.  Don’t worry about scaling them perfectly for size.  The point of this exercise is to get a feel for the distances between planets, not for the differences in size between the planets.  I let my son just make the planets any way he liked.  He’s pretty crafty so he really enjoyed this part.

The next thing you need is lots and lots of space.  The model ends up being almost as long as a football field, so if you don’t live in the country on acres of land then you’ll want to head to a large park or field.

scale model of the solar system

 

We attached the smaller planets to craft sticks so they wouldn’t get lost in the lawn.

Harrison rolled out our 100 foot tape measure.

Then we placed the sun at the 0 mark, the end of the tape measure.  Then we used a table to place each planet in its scaled position.

Object Distance to sun Scale distance
Sun
Mercury 36,000,000 miles 3 feet (.9 m)
Venus 67,000,000 miles 5.5 feet (1.7 m)
Earth 93,000,000 miles 7.75 feet (2.4 m)
Mars 141,500,000 miles 11.75 feet (3.5 m)
Jupiter 483,000,000 miles 40 feet (12 m)
Saturn 886,200,000 miles 73 feet (22.25 m)
Uranus 1,782,900,000 miles 148 feet (45 m)
Neptune 2,792,600,000 miles 233 feet (71 m)

It was surprising to see how closely packed the first planets were, especially by the time we got as far out as Uranus.  Neptune is so far that we could barely make out our “sun” from its position and we were in the trees.

More From Layers of Learning

Layers of Learning Year One has five astronomy units that cover the stars, planets, and other space topics.  Check them out.

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