In this laboratory exercise, students will be able to construct a scaled model of the solar system. The finished model is nearly two meters long! All of the paper shapes to create the lab are included in the model template, so no adding machine tape is necessary.
The model displays the modern conception of the solar system which consists of eight planets and three dwarf planets. The model also displays the main asteroid belt, the Kuiper Belt, and the aphelion of Comet Halley.
Their are two scales in the model, one for orbit sizes and the other for planetary diameters. The two scales enable students to compare the relative sizes of the planets and their orbits. Students will also calculate the scaled distance to the nearest sunlike star Alpha Centauri. This distance, based on a nearly two-meter model, turns out to be just over five miles!
From a template, the students will color, cut, and glue the components. The students will also calculate the orbit sizes and diameters of the planets, and will then locate the locations of the planets. The model includes built in scales displaying centimeters and astronomical units, so a meter stick is not necessary to complete the lab! The planets are sketched in the template, and the students cut out and glue the planets to the correct orbits. The template includes arrow flag markers for the planets and dwarf planets. Extra features take advantage of the scales used in the model. For example, a strip displays the length of a light hour, and the students also measure the radius of one of the largest known stars. This star, VY Canis Majoris, if it replaced our sun, would extend out beyond the orbit of Jupiter!
The PDF includes a "Quick Start" guide that displays photos of how to construct the model. Along with the model template is a lab handout and key. I have also included an older version of this lab which used adding machine tape to create a solar system model, and links to download optional teacher and student spreadsheets of the lab data.
Modeling the Solar System is a fun, hands-on science lab. With it, they will calculate, measure, and use scissors, glue, and colored pencils. The lab also enables students to begin to grasp the immensity of space, and it serves as an overview of the major features of the modern solar system.