Our Solar System to Scale

Sara Papsidero

PACE High School, Manhattan

Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

August 2008



Duration: 2 periods

 Aim: How massive is our Solar System and the planets within?


·         Students will be able to calculate the diameter of planets to a smaller scale

·         Students will be able to calculate the distance from the sun to each planet to scale.

·         Students will understand how massive the planets are and the vastness of the solar system.

Materials: Lab sheet, Planet Guides, chart paper, colored paper, scissors, compasses, metric rulers, markers, pencils, glue


            Bell Ringer-

What are the three characteristics which make a planet a planet?

1.     Planets are massive enough to retain a spherical shape.

2.    Planets only revolve around the sun.

3.    Planets are in control of their own orbit.  They are not controlled by any other body but the Sun.

Why is Pluto no longer a planet?

            Pluto is controlled by Neptune’s gravitational influence as well as the Sun’s.  It is now considered a ‘Dwarf Planet’.


            Lab Introduction

1.     Read directions of Lab through Part A- Size of Planets.

2.    Each student will complete the first of the two hypotheses. 

3.    Practice calculating the scale diameter the Moon.


  Moon’s diameter 3, 746 km                      7000 km

                  ______________        =     _____________

                              X                                         1cm


                     7000km x                          =      3746 km cm


            Moon’s scale   diameter                X        =   0.535 cm

                                                  X =   0.5 cm – to the nearest tenth.


4.     Students will be placed in cooperative pairs and will begin working on Procedure A while teacher walks around for assistance.


·         Students will be asked to reflect upon their first hypothesis and briefly discuss as a class.

·         Students will be asked to calculate the scale the sun would be if they know the diameter to be 1,394,000 km. They will then see how large the sun actually is compared to the planets.



Students will complete Part A of Lab.  Students will also answer discussion questions that pertain to Part A if they are done early or for homework if there is not enough time.

Next day:

·         Class discussion about Part A of Lab and/or finish Part A.

·         Begin Part B- Relative Distance of Planets.


New York State Standards

Standard 4: Performance Indicators 1.2a & 1.2c