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# Free Unit Study on the Solar System

Posted by on Aug. 26, 2013 at 1:03 AM
• 1 Replies
Solar System Distance Activity

Goal:
The students will understand the distances between the Sun, planets, and small
objects in the Solar System.
Objective:
To create a model demonstrating the scale distances of the Solar System using
astronomical units that have been converted into a 10 centimeter scale.
National Science Education Standards: Standard D: Earth in the Solar System
Materials:
Sun
Mercury Venus
Earth
Mars Asteroid belt Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto
yellow solid red cream clear blue clear red black orange clear gold dark blue light blue brown
􏰀 4.5 meters of string for each student
􏰀 Small piece of cardboard to wrap Solar System string around (10 cm x 10 cm)
􏰀 Meter sticks or measuring device 􏰀 Student handout
Background:
􏰀 To speed up the activity for younger students, the string may be pre-cut and a set of
Solar System beads may be put into a plastic ziplock bag for each student. Also, for younger students, a measured marking grid can be put on a table top so the students can mark their measured distances and then tie off the beads. If the pre-marking method is used, extra distance must be added to each planet distance to accommodate the string within each knot (approximately 4 cm for a double knot around the bead). Tape newspapers to the surface where the students will be marking their strings, so they do not mark up the counter or floor.
􏰀 For older students, measurements are made each time from the Sun to the planet and tied on after each measurement.
Student Procedure:
1. Convert the various AU distances to centimeters and complete the chart on the student
hand-out sheet.
2. Measure and cut a piece of string 4.5 m long.
3. Using the calculated cm distances, tie the bead onto the string using a double knot.
4. When finished with the activity wrap the Solar System string (with beads) around the
cardboard holder.
Credits: Tom Gates - NASA Educator, NASA Ames Research Center. Adapted by Steve Klug, Fees Middle School, Tempe, AZ and Sheri Klug, ASU Mars K-12 Education Program, Tempe, AZ.

Introduction:

Our Solar System is immense in size by normal standards. We think of the planets as
revolving around the Sun, but rarely consider how far each planet is from the Sun. Furthermore, we fail to appreciate the even greater distances to the other stars. Astronomers use the distance from the Sun to the Earth as one “astronomical unit”. This unit provides an easy way to calculate the distances of the other planets from the Sun.
Vocabulary:
Astronomical Unit - 1 AU = approximately 150 million kilometers (93 million miles)
Activity:
We will construct a distance model of the Solar System to scale, using colored beads
as planets. The chart below shows the planets and asteroid belt in order along with their distance from the Sun in astronomical units. First, complete the chart by multiplying each AU distance by our scale factor of 10 cm per astronomical unit. Next, use the new distance to construct a scale model of our Solar System. Start your model by cutting a 4.5 m piece of string. Use the distances in cm that you have calculated in the chart below to measure the distance from the Sun on the string to the appropriate planet and tie the colored bead in place. When you are finished, wrap your string Solar System around the cardboard holder.
Planet Sun
Mercury Venus
Earth
Mars Asteroid belt Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto
AU 0.0 AU 0.4 AU 0.7 AU 1.0 AU 1.5 AU 2.8 AU 5.0 AU
10.0 AU 19.0 AU 30.0 AU 39.0 AU
Scale value (cm) ______cm
______cm ______cm ______cm ______cm ______cm ______cm ______cm ______cm ______cm ______cm
Color yellow
solid red cream clear blue clear red black orange clear gold dark blue light blue brown
Consider that if you were traveling at the speed of light, it would take 8 minutes to travel from the Sun to the Earth (1 AU). It would take 4.3 years (traveling at the speed of light - 300,000 kilometers per second) to reach the next nearest star, Alpha Centauri!

Planet Sun
Mercury Venus
Earth
Mars Asteroid belt Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto
AU 0.0 AU 0.4 AU 0.7 AU 1.0 AU 1.5 AU 2.8 AU 5.0 AU
10.0 AU 19.0 AU 30.0 AU 39.0 AU
Scale value (cm) ______cm
______cm ______cm ______cm ______cm ______cm ______cm ______cm ______cm ______cm ______cm
Color yellow
solid red cream clear blue clear red black orange clear gold dark blue light blue brown

by on Aug. 26, 2013 at 1:03 AM