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Scale Model of the Solar System (page 2)

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Author: Beth Touchette

Materials:

  • Metric ruler
  • White poster board
  • Pencil
  • Drafting compass (the kind you draw circles with)
  • Scissors
  • Permanent Marker

Procedure: Scale Model of Relative Diameters of Planets

  1. First, we need to compare the diameter of the Earth to that of the other planets. Remember that diameter is the length of a straight line going through the middle of a circle. The Earth’s diameter is 12,760 km. We can divide the diameter of the Earth into the diameters of all the planets, to get a relative comparison.

Planet

Diameter in kilometers

Relative Diameter

Compared to Earth

Size in cm

Mercury

4800

.376

.4 cm

Venus

12100

.949

.9 cm

Earth

12750

1.00

1 cm

Mars

6800

.533

.5 cm

Jupiter

142800

11.2

11 cm

Saturn

120660

9.46

9 cm

Uranus

51800

4.06

4 cm

Neptune

49500

3.88

3 cm

 

  1. Use the ruler to draw a line for the diameter. Start with drawing the relative diameters of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
  2. Using the compass, draw circles around the diameters.  
  3. Fit in the smaller planets (Earth, Mercury, Venus, and Mars) around where you drew the bigger planets.
  4. Label the planets, so you don’t forget which is which when you are cutting them out. For tiny planets, you might have to use an abbreviation.
  5. Cut your planets out.

Results

When you build the scale model of solar system distances, you will undoubtedly notice that some of your friends will be much closer together than others. Some of your friends will have to stand quite close to each other, while others will be far enough away to have a hard time hearing you! When you compare the sizes of the planets, Jupiter and Saturn will seem gigantic compared to the others.  

Why?

The inner planets of the solar system; Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are relatively close to the Sun and each other, while the outer planets are relatively distant from each other and the Sun. The material that makes up the solar system is not distributed evenly.  The Sun, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune make up the bulk of the material in the solar system. Our own planet is tiny in comparison!

Going Further

Do you want to make a scale model of the solar system where both the distances and diameters are proportional to reality?  This table expresses the diameters in A.U, so the size of the planet is correct proportion to its distance from the sun.  Remember we set 1 AU, the distance between the Earth and Sun, as equal to 1 meter.

Planet

Diameter in kilometers

Relative Diameter

In AU (meters)

Mercury

4800

3.2 x 10-5

Venus

12100

8.1 x 10-5

Earth

12750

8.5 x 10-5

Mars

6800

4.5  x 10-5

Jupiter

142800

9.5 x 10-4

Saturn

120660

8.0 x 10-4

Uranus

51800

3.5 x 10-4

Neptune

49500

3.3 x 10-4

 

As you can see, all the planets would be too tiny to trace and out using equipment you have at home.  What this table does remind you of is that space is, as the name suggests, mostly empty, and even big planets make up a tiny part of our solar system.

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