1000 yard solar system    

General information

The general outline is:

  • show class how to determine the scale
  • class works on filling in the table for distances
  • class assigned in to teams and assigned an object
  • students create presentations (1+ week)
  • create the model


ASP's Project Astro Universe at Your Fingertips, section activityD-7 "The Thousand-Yard Model (or the Earth as a Peppercorn)"

This one is found in a number of places on the 'net, for example (this is a more involved version of the above) http://www.noao.edu/education/peppercorn/pcmain.html


See Activity D-7.

  • For class portion: handout (one per student)
  • For outside portion: tomato stakes (and a small hammer to drive them in with) to mount cards too - I have them each labeled in marker with the object's name and actual distance to the sun.
  • duct tape to attach the cards to the stakes (and it works for the Sun too).



General plan



First Visit

time: 30 - 60 minutes

The Excel master for the handout is available. The handout (pdf) and here's the answer key (pdf).

I've found that working out the Sun and Mercury as a class, and then everyone works individually to fill in the rest of the table.

Explain that they will be divided in to 2 person teams. (if there are more teams, you can add other objects, like the moons of Jupiter, or where a spacecraft currently is). Try to encourage more than recital of facts - some groups have done songs and skits.

The teacher will make time available for them to develop their material - typically the second visit is about a week later.

Second Visit

time: 90 minutes

Start at the sun...if the Sun is visible, when you get to Earth, they can cover the sun with their finger (real and the model one) to see it does scale.

Here's pictures from one of the years:






I have a picture prepared that the teacher can display/print out afterwards that shows them where they've been.