Solar System Demo: Student Activity Sheet

You have recently been studying the solar system in class. Today we will construct a scale model of our solar system to try to get an idea of what it really looks like. Please write down your answers to the following questions as they are discussed in class. If you need to calculate anything, use the back of these pages for scratch paper.

1. What is a scale model? Can you give an example of one?

2. The Earth is about 150,000,000 (150 million) kilometers from the Sun. Remember that 1 kilometer is 1000 meters, and 1 meter is a little more than 3 feet. How many meters do you walk to school every day? How many times would you have to walk to school to match the distance between the Earth and the Sun?

3. We're going to make a scale model of our solar system, so we have to decide by how much to divide the real distances so they fit in our model -- we have to decide the scale factor. Now Pluto is 5,900 million kilometers from the Sun. If you wanted to fit the scale model on the field outside the school, how far would you put Pluto from the Sun in your model? What is the scale factor of your model?

4. Now you will go outside with your group and actually make a scale model of the solar system. Table 1 lists both the actual distances between the planets and the Sun and the distances you will use in your scale model. We will use a scale of 100 million kilometers to 1 meter, which is 100 billion to 1!

5. The Earth is about 13,000 km in diameter. How big would this be on our scale model of the solar system (remember, the scale factor was given in question 3)?

6. Because the Earth is so small on the first scale, we are going to use a different scale to compare the planets' sizes. Your group will now work with 9 objects of various sizes. Using Table 2, try to match each object with its corresponding planet. Explain your reason for making these matches. What is the diameter of the Earth in this second scale model? Can you figure out what the scale factor is?

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Last Modified: 5/21/98
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