Scale Model of Our Solar System
Gain an understanding of the concept of SCALE by making a scale model of our solar system in which 1 cm stands for 30,000,000 km.
PERFORMING THE ACTIVITY
- Using a meter stick, measure a strip of adding machine paper 2 meters long, and cut the strip at that point.
- Roll out your paper strip, and fasten it to the table with masking tape.
- Draw a large arc or part of a circle shaped like ")" at the left end of your paper strip to represent the sun.
- Look at the SCALE distances from the SUN in the table below to find out how far from the sun to place each planet, and put a small mark on your strip for each planet. From the SCALED picture of the planets, carefully cut out each planet including its name and line underneath, and paste each planet in its proper place using a glue stick. Color the planets and paper strip with crayons either here or at home.
Take your scale model home and put it up in your bedroom or playroom to remind you of the names of the planets, the relative sizes of the planets, and the relative distances between the planets and from the sun.
Planet / Real Distance from Sun / Scaled Distance from Sun / Real Distance from previous planet / Scaled Distance from previous planet
Mercury / 60,000,000 km / 2 cm
Venus / 110,000,000 km / 4 cm / 50,000 km / 2 cm
Earth / 150,000,000 km / 5 cm / 40,000 km / 1 cm
Mars / 230,000,000 km / 8 cm / 80,000 km / 3 cm
Jupiter / 780,000,000 km / 26 cm / 550,000 km / 18 cm
Saturn / 1,430,000,000 km / 48 cm / 650,000 km / 22 cm
Uranus / 2,880,000,000 km / 96 cm / 1,450,000 km / 48 cm
Neptune / 4,590,000,000 km / 153 cm / 1,710,000 km / 57 cm
Pluto / 5,900,000,000 km / 197 cm / 1,310,000 km / 44 cm
QUESTIONS TO THING ABOUT
1. Which is the largest planet? Which is the smallest planet?
2. Which planet is fourth farthest from the sun? Which planet is farthest from the sun? Which planet is closest to the sun?
3. Which two neighboring planets are closest to each other? Which two neighboring planets are farthest from each other?
4. Which planet is closest to Earth? Which planet is farthest from Earth?
As shown in the table above, distances between the sun and various planets and distances between planets are so large that it is impossible to imagine them. When scientists want to study very large REAL distances, or when they want to put smaller REAL distances on a printed page, they make a very small SCALE model. A map is a good example of a SCALE model. A map can show many towns, cities, highways, rivers, and mountains, and distances between them, but everything on the map is made smaller according to a certain SCALE. The SCALE might have 1 centimeter (cm) on the map stand for 10 kilometers (km) in REAL distance, or whatever SCALE is needed to reduce the REAL distances to a map of a desired size.
Adding machine tape; solar system patterns; centimeter ruler; masking tape; meter stick or tape; glue sticks; scissors; crayons.
Modified from WonderScience, Fun Physical Science Activities for Children and Adults to Do Together, volume 5, number 4, April, 1991, American Chemical Society/American Institute of Physics, Washington, D.C., page 2.