Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mapping the Solar System

I recently encountered this activity for the first time, on the McDonald Observatory website.  I've since found the same activity on numerous other sites.  I don't know where it came from first, but I'll give credit to the place where I first saw it.

Anyway... it's a super simple way for students to map the solar system and get a feel for how much distance is between the planets.  In short, it's brilliant!

Each student will need a sentence strip or a length of adding machine/calculator paper.

Hold the paper vertically and label (in small letters) one end of the strip "Sun" and the other end "Pluto".

At this point, you can have students fill in the planets with their best guesses as to their placement.  Or you can just make the accurate map.  It's up to you and your situation.

To make the map:
Fold Pluto to the Sun.  Label Uranus on the crease.
Fold Pluto to Uranus.  Label Neptune on the crease.

 Fold the Sun to Uranus.  Label Saturn on the crease.
Fold the Sun to Saturn.  Label Jupiter on the crease.
Fold the Sun to Jupiter.  You can label the crease Asteroid Belt or leave this space blank.

Fold the Sun to the Asteroid Belt.  Label Mars on the crease.
Fold the Sun to Mars. Label Venus on the crease.

Label the space between the Sun and Venus, Mercury.  (You could fold the Sun to Venus and label the crease, but the space gets a little tight to make more folds at this point).

Label the space between Venus and Mars, Earth.

That's it!  You've completed your map!  And it's incredibly accurate for such a simple model.

I'm thinking it might be fun to convert distances to some other notable bodies in the cosmos to this scale and lay out the sentence strips to show kids the vast amount of space in space.  I'll let you know what I come up with!


  1. Thanks for detailing this. Had it demonstrated but forgot the details.

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  5. Great post. Thanks for sharing, Goodluck

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  7. This post is usefull and helpfull. Thanks for sharing. Goodluck!


  8. Very nice post, impressive. its quite different from other posts. Thanks for sharing.
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