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Size, Motion, Distance - Solar System Distances

Earlier you learned that one astronomical unit (AU) is the average distance between the sun and earth. An AU equals 93,000,000 miles.

You will use this knowledge along with distance data about our solar system. You will represent these planets in a model based on their distances from the sun.

Materials:

  • Calculators
  • Butcher paper, about 2.5 meters long
  • Something to mark each planet on the butcher paper (e.g. stickers, crayons for drawings, etc.)

Procedure:

  1. Draw a large sun in the center of butcher paper.
  2. Divide your friends into nine groups and assign a planet to each group.
  3. Using a calculator and the chart and below, figure out how many AUs each planet is from the sun. (To figure out the AU distance your planets is from the sun, divide the planet's distance in miles by 93,000,000. Hint: Take off all of the zeros before dividing.)
  4. Using the scale of 1 AU=one inch, place a marker for your planet (drawings or stickers) on appropriate spot in any direction from the sun.
Distance from sun
(in miles)
Mercury Venus Earth Mars
36,000,000 67,000,000 93,000,000 142,000,000
       
Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto
486,000,000 893,000,000 1,797,000,000 2,815,000,000 3,688,000,000

Analysis:

  1. What planet is the usually farthest from the sun in AUs?
  2. The sun in the middle of the chart can have planets on each side. Can these planets be further apart than when they are on the same side of the sun?
  3. What planet is closest to Earth when they are both on the same side of the sun?

Highlight the box below to check your answers.

1. Pluto 2. Planets can be very far apart when they are on different sides of the sun. 3. Venus
utah state board of education This Sci-ber Text was developed by the Utah State Board of Education and Utah educators.