Lunar and Planetary Institute






Explore! Fun with Science
Solar System
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Planet Distances
Solar System on a Map
About Our Solar System
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Solar System on a Map
Activity Part 3

12. Acquire or photocopy maps (with scales) showing your geographic location and up to 40 miles away.

13. Ask the children to estimate how much space would be needed to position the planets properly at the scale used in Part 1. How far would Earth be from our Sun? Pluto?

Estimating is a way to engage the children. Reassure them that this estimate is just guessing and that you are not expecting anyone to know the answer. You may need to remind the children that scale involves showing size and distance relationships accurately. In this activity, they will map the distances of the planets from the Sun if they were the size of the paper cutouts in Part 1.

14. Explain that the planets in Part 1 are 100 million times smaller than the actual planets - it would take 100 million of the Part 1 "Earths" placed side-by-side, for example, to equal the actual diameter of Earth.

15. Provide children with distances listed in the Distances From Our Sun chart.

16. Have children locate themselves on the map and place a yellow dot at that location — this is our Sun.

17. Invite them to use the map scale to mark how far away each planet needs to be placed to represent its correct orbit. Use a protractor (or string) to draw circular paths for each planet, using your location as the center (i.e., the Sun).

Table 3. Mapping Distances from Our Sun

Planet
Planet Diameters
(reduced by a factor of 100 million)
Average Distance
from the Sun
(kilometers)
Scaled Distance from Sun
(reduced by a factor of 100 million)
Mercury
5 cm
57,909,000
580 m (0.4 miles)
Venus
12 cm
108,200,000
1,080 m (0.7 miles)
Earth
13 cm
149,600,000
1,500 m (0.9 miles)
Mars
7 cm
227,940,000
2,280 m (1.4 miles)
Jupiter
143 cm
778,400,000
7,780 m (4.8 miles)
Saturn
120 cm
1,423,600,000
14,240 m (8.8 miles)
Uranus
51 cm
2,867,000,000
28,670 m (17.6 miles)
Neptune
49 cm
4,488,400,000
44,880 m (27.6 miles)
Pluto
2 cm
5,909,600,000
59,100 m (36.4 miles)


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Last updated
April 20, 2005

 

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