Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fun astronomy project

This was so fun and instructive I can't believe I didn't blog about it when we first did it.

We started using Exploring Creation with Astronomy a couple of years ago. One of the first projects is to make a model of the solar system using balloons -- tiny ones for Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Pluto, and larger ones for the rest. We were supposed to hang them from the ceiling in the school room in the proper order, and I thought that since we were doing a scale model we might as well hang them according to their relative distances. Our school room is one part of a large L-shaped area that has the dining room in one arm and the kitchen in the other, but I figured that if that area wasn't big enough we'd just hang them out into the living room, too.

So I went online to look up the information I needed. The site I found said that I should use an 8-inch ball for the sun, the head of a pin for Mercury, peppercorns for Venus and Earth, another pinhead for Mars, a pecan for Jupiter, a hazelnut for Saturn, coffee beans for Uranus and Neptune, and another pinhead for Pluto (or something smaller -- like a dot on an index card).

Now, in the scale model, one inch equals 100,000 MILES, so one yard equals 3.6 million miles. Turns out I couldn't possibly do it in my house. We gathered our supplies (I had taped all the "planets" onto index cards and labelled each) and went outside. I put our cabbage-sun on a cement block at one end of the driveway, and walked ten paces. That's where Mercury goes. Nine more paces, Venus; seven more, Earth -- 93 million miles from the sun. We have quite a large yard (about an acre) -- our driveway is about 130 yards long. We had to make three trips down the driveway and around our yard to get to Pluto. I had NO IDEA how big the solar system was.

We did it on a Saturday when everyone was home and we all had a blast.

Here's the site where I found this project: The Thousand-Yard Model: or Earth as a Peppercorn. This page, which I found while searching for the one I originally used, has all the same info plus a lot more.

This post inspired by this picture, seen at Facebook today:

Originally shared by Wimp.com.