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Our Solar System

Our Solar System






Introduction: (Initial Observation)

Exploration and learning about stars and planets has a long history, but only in the past few years we have been able to see photographic pictures and colorful details of other planets.
Making a model is an excellent way for learning about Solar System. Many attempt to make a scale model, but since actual planets are very far from each other, pieces of the model also need to be relatively far; so you will not be able to see the entire solar system in one room. That often creates the idea of using the scale only for the diameter of planets, not for distances.


This project guide contains information that you need in order to start your project. If you have any questions or need more support about this project, click on the “Ask Question” button on the top of this page to send me a message.

If you are new in doing science project, click on “How to Start” in the main page. There you will find helpful links that describe different types of science projects, scientific method, variables, hypothesis, graph, abstract and all other general basics that you need to know.

Project advisor

Information Gathering:

Find out about what you want to investigate. Read books, magazines or ask professionals who might know in order to learn about the effect or area of study. Keep track of where you got your information from.

Following are some good references:

The Inner Planets
The four innermost planets in the Solar System (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) are sometimes called the “terrestrial” planets because of their proximity to Earth (“Terra” in Latin) and their similarity as solid bodies with compact, rocky surfaces.

Outer Planets (Giant Gas Balls)

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are known as gas giants. This is because they are basically gigantic gas balls compared to Earth and the other three rocky inner planets, or to the icy planet Pluto and its ice moon Charon (which are also classed as large Edgeworth-Kuiper (E-K) Belt objects). The four giant planets are comprised mostly of an outer layer of molecular hydrogen and helium and a much thicker layer of metallic hydrogen. However, each may have a small solid core as large as several Earth masses at their center.

Habitable Zone

In general, the conditions needed to support the type of large carbon-based life found on Earth may require an inner rocky planet that is orbiting a star in its so-called “habitable zone.” Such zones are bounded by the range of distances from a star for which liquid water can exist on a planetary surface, depending on such additional factors as the nature and density of its atmosphere and its surface gravity. In addition, the range of star types that can support Earth-type life on rocky planets may be limited to those lower mass stars that “live” long enough for planets to form and complex life to evolve.


Question/ Purpose:

What do you want to find out? Write a statement that describes what you want to do. Use your observations and questions to write the statement.
By completing this display project you will find answers to the following questions:

  1. How many planets revolve around the sun? Which planet is the closest and which is the farthest from the sun?
  2. Which planet is the closest planet to the sun?
  3. Which planet is the farthest planet from the sun?
  4. What are the smallest and largest planets in our solar system?
  5. Which is the largest planet in our solar system?

We want to make a model that helps us to learn more about the Solar System.

Identify Variables:

When you think you know what variables may be involved, think about ways to change one at a time. If you change more than one at a time, you will not know what variable is causing your observation. Sometimes variables are linked and work together to cause something. At first, try to choose variables that you think act independently of each other.

In a display project you will not define variables. Verify this with your teacher to make sure that this is acceptable for your grade and is not a requirement.


Based on your gathered information, make an educated guess about what types of things affect the system you are working with. Identifying variables is necessary before you can make a hypothesis.

In a display project you do not propose a hypothesis. Verify this with your teacher to make sure that this is acceptable for your grade and is not a requirement.

Experiment Design:

Design and construct a model of solar system to show which planets are closer or further away from the sun. Your model must also show which planets are smaller and which one are larger than the earth.

Build a model of solar system:


  1. Find the actual diameter of planets and the radios of orbits.
  2. Reduce the planet sizes and orbit diameters at a ratio that makes sun to be 5 inch in diameter. (We selected 5″ because the largest Styrofoam ball available in craft stores is 5″ in diameter and we are trying to use that as the sun).
  3. See the resulting sizes. Can you make a scale model with those sizes?
  4. If you cannot make a scale model (most can’t, because the distances are large and the sizes are very small), then make a non scale model using the sizes provided below.
Styrofoam Ball Color Ball Diameter Distance to sun
Sun Yellow 5”
Mercury Orange/Red 1 ¼” 2 ½”
Venus Grey/Blue 1 ½” 4”
Earth Blue and Green 1 ½” 5”
Mars Red 1 ¼” 6”
Jupiter Red and Orange 4” 7”
Saturn with ring Mint Green and Peach 3” 8”
Uranus Rust and Green 2 ½” 10”
Neptune Rust and Green 2” 11 ½”
Pluto Purple 1” 14”

5. Get 10 Styrofoam balls and 6 straight wires about 16 inches long each.

6. Paint the balls using the above image or table.

7. Draw an equator line (like a belt) around the sun.

8. Insert 3 straight steel wires in the sun – starting from different points on the equator and passing from the                   center of the sun. The ends of these wires will be used to mount the 6 planets that are closest to the sun.                         Mercury and Saturn will be mounted on the two ends of one wire. Venus and Jupiter will be mounted on the                 ends of the second wire. Earth and Mars will be mounted on the ends of the third wire. Adjust the distances of             planets to the sun so that Mercury is the closest to the sun, and Saturn the 6th in the order of closeness to the               sun.

9. Insert three more wires in the sun for Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. These three wires do not have to pass                       through the Sun. You can adjust the distances by choosing different wire lengths or by the amount of wire that             you insert in the foam.

10. Label all planets in your model.

Procedure Details: Step by step

We want to build a model of our solar system. It is good if we can find information that can help us building a scaled model. A scaled model is a model that all sizes in that are reduced at a certain ratio. First we need to find the actual diameter of sun and its nine planets. then we reduce these sizes at a ratio that matches our plan. We want to make a model of solar system that is about 2 to 3 feet wide. We also want to use plastic balls to make our model. By searching the net and books we found the diameter of sun and it’s planets as well as their distance to the sun. Following table reflects these information.

Real Values
 Body  Body Diam (km)  Orbit radius (km)
 Sun  1,391,900
Mercury  4,866  57950000
Venus  12,106  108110000
Earth  12,742  149570000
 Mars  6,760  227840000
Jupiter  139,516  778140000
Saturn  116,438  1427000000
Uranus  46,940  2870300000
 Neptune  45,432  4499900000
Pluto  2,274  5913000000

Now we want to use a 5 inch ball to represent the sun. 5 inches is about 12 Centimeters. We need to find out how many times do we need to reduce the size of sun to reach to 12 centimeters. To do that we divide the real diameter of the sun (in centimeters) by 12 centimeters. The diameter of the sun in centimeter is 1,391,900,000,000 and by dividing it by 12 we get 115991666666 and we round it up to 116,000,000,000 or 116 billion times. Now we need to reduce all other diameters and distances with the same ratio. So we simply divide all of them by 116 billion. The result is in the following table.

 116 billion times smaller model
 Body  Body Diam (in)  Orbit radius (ft)
 Sun  5
 Mercury  0.0174  17
 Venus  0.0434  32
 Earth  0.0457  44
 Mars  0.0242  68
 Jupiter  0.5011  232
 Saturn  0.4182  427
 Uranus  0.1686  859
 Neptune  0.1632  1347
 Pluto  0.008  1770

This calculation shows that if the diameter of our sun is only 5 inches, the Pluto orbit must be 1770 feet away from the sun and its size should be as small as a dust particle and will be invisible.

So we decided to make our model with a 5 inch ball to be the sun and for all other bodies we use smaller balls for all other planets.

One way to construct a model is to buy 10 Styrofoam balls in 10 different sizes and let the largest be sun and the smallest be Pluto. Paint the balls, place the sun in the center and connect all planets to the sun using straight wires.

The other way is using the sizes from the above table. You may buy a 5″ ball to be the sun and buy small bids for Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. All others will be the size of a small dot on a wall.

When it comes to presentation, you keep the sun at your desk, Put a small dot somewhere in the wall about 17 feet away from the sun to be the Mercury. Put another small dot about 32 feet away to be the Venus. Two other small dots at 44 feet and 68 feet away will be Earth and Mars.
At 232 feet you put a 0.5″ bide to be the Jupiter and another at 427 feet to be the Saturn.
The last three are also 3 small dots, Uranus at 859 feet, Neptune at 1347 feet and Pluto at 1770 feet away from our 5″ Sun.

Build a moving model of solar system:

Why the planets don’t collide into each other?

There are two reasons for the planets to keep moving safely without any collision. One reason is the astronomical distance between planets. The other is the fact that each planet has a specific orbit. In this experiment you will make a moving model with 3 or more planets and show that they cannot collide because they have their own specific orbits.


  1. Get a cone shape block of wood as the base and insert a 5″ rod on the top of the cone.
  2. Get 6 straight aluminum rods about 1 foot long each
  3. Bend one end of each rod to form a small circle.
  4. Place the rods over the stand so that the vertical rod goes trough the circles. Use steel washers bellow, between and above the circles to help them move easily.
  5. Bend each horizontal line upward at a different point, so that the rods will have 3″, 5″, 7″ and 9″ horizontal length and the remaining length will go upward and become vertical.
  6. Trim the vertical section of all the rods so that the top of the rods will be at the same surface (or at the same elevation).
  7. Insert a 1″ Styrofoam ball on the top of each vertical section to represent a planet.
  8. Mount a 2″ ball on the top of the center wire (over the cone) to represent the sun.
  9. Make necessary adjustments and use tape or glue to make sure that all wires can spin around the center rod. Use this display to show that each planet has a different orbit and planets do not collide.

Materials and Equipment:

Material commonly used to make a model of Solar System are:

  1. 10 Styrofoam balls in 10 different sizes
  2. 6 straight Wires about 16″ each
  3. Paint
  4. Paper and cardboard
  5. Wood glue
  6. Brushes

Results of Experiment (Observation):

Experiments are often done in series. A series of experiments can be done by changing one variable a different amount each time. A series of experiments is made up of separate experimental “runs.” During each run you make a measurement of how much the variable affected the system under study. For each run, a different amount of change in the variable is used. This produces a different amount of response in the system. You measure this response, or record data, in a table for this purpose. This is considered “raw data” since it has not been processed or interpreted yet. When raw data gets processed mathematically, for example, it becomes results.

Following shows a model of solar system constructed using a kit from MiniScience.com.

Material in the kit include Styrofoam balls, wires for connecting the balls, a wooden stand and brushes.
No paint is included with the kits. You may purchase any water base paint for your project from an art store, paint store or hardware store near you.

To construct the model, first we painted all the balls using the images provided above.

Then we placed the sun (the largest ball) in the center and used wires to connect other planets in different distances from the sun.
As you may see in the image, some wires go through the sun and support two planets in opposite sides of the sun.


Summery of Results:

Summarize what happened. This can be in the form of a table of processed numerical data, or graphs. It could also be a written statement of what occurred during experiments.

It is from calculations using recorded data that tables and graphs are made. Studying tables and graphs, we can see trends that tell us how different variables cause our observations. Based on these trends, we can draw conclusions about the system under study. These conclusions help us confirm or deny our original hypothesis. Often, mathematical equations can be made from graphs. These equations allow us to predict how a change will affect the system without the need to do additional experiments. Advanced levels of experimental science rely heavily on graphical and mathematical analysis of data. At this level, science becomes even more interesting and powerful.


Using the trends in your experimental data and your experimental observations, try to answer your original questions. Is your hypothesis correct? Now is the time to pull together what happened, and assess the experiments you did.

Related Questions & Answers:

What you have learned may allow you to answer other questions. Many questions are related. Several new questions may have occurred to you while doing experiments. You may now be able to understand or verify things that you discovered when gathering information for the project. Questions lead to more questions, which lead to additional hypothesis that need to be tested.

Possible Errors:

If you did not observe anything different than what happened with your control, the variable you changed may not affect the system you are investigating. If you did not observe a consistent, reproducible trend in your series of experimental runs there may be experimental errors affecting your results. The first thing to check is how you are making your measurements. Is the measurement method questionable or unreliable? Maybe you are reading a scale incorrectly, or maybe the measuring instrument is working erratically.

If you determine that experimental errors are influencing your results, carefully rethink the design of your experiments. Review each step of the procedure to find sources of potential errors. If possible, have a scientist review the procedure with you. Sometimes the designer of an experiment can miss the obvious.


List of References