Google And NASA Team Up To Give You A Fun Way To Learn About Our Solar System: All Details

By | 16/09/2022

Have y’all always wondered about the sizes of planets in the solar system or the distances between them? In this project, yous will create your ain calibration model of the solar organization by learning how to calculate scale distances, the relative sizes of planets, or both. Then, utilize chaplet and string, sidewalk chalk, or your own creative choice of materials to build a model you lot tin can explore – or peradventure even habiliment!


ane. Larn virtually sizes and distances in our solar organisation

Distances in the solar system can be huge! The distance from the Sun to Neptune is virtually three billion miles (four billion kilometers). Because the distances between planets are so great, astronomers sometimes draw distances in terms of astronomical units (AU). Ane AU is equal to the average altitude betwixt the Sun and World, nearly 93 one thousand thousand miles (150 1000000 kilometers). This allows scientists to describe and summate distances more efficiently. For instance, instead of saying, “Mars is 130 million miles from the Sun,” scientists can say, “Mars is ane.5 AU from the Sun.”

It’s not just the distances between planets that are large. There are too huge differences in the size of each planet. Because of this, it tin be hard or even incommunicable to brandish both planet size and distance accurately, especially in smaller scale models like an paradigm.

Watch this video virtually the size of planets and the distances between them to see how far they are from each other, how they differ in size, and how difficult it is to display both their size and altitude accurately.

Watch en Español: Seleccione subtítulos en Español bajo el ícono de configuración. | Watch on YouTube

More than solar system size and scale resources:

  • Solar Organisation Sizes and Distances reference guide – download PDF
  • Solar System Trading Cards
Three panel image with a scale solar system drawn on a concrete walkway with chalk, another with buttons and string, and a third with trading cards on a grassy lawn

2. Determine what kind of model y’all want to build

Determine if you lot want your model to evidence scale planet sizes or the scale distances between planets. You can combine a planet-size model of one calibration with a distance model of another scale. But if you want size and distance to exist the same calibration, y’all’ll need to spread your model across at least half a mile! Encounter Pace half dozen for instructions on building a combined size-and-distance model.

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Measuring tape extends on a concrete walkway from an outline of the sun drawn with chalk

three. Choose where your model solar organisation will become

Selection a identify to prepare your solar system model. This could be across a sleeping room wall, along the floor of a hallway or big room, outside in a k, or down a sidewalk.

Keep your choice in listen as you summate the size of planets and distances between them in the adjacent steps. You’ll demand to have enough materials, and your model will accept to fit within the place you cull.

Instructions for building a model out of beads and string, sidewalk chalk, or chiliad markers are included below, only you tin can use whatever materials or any space you lot like!

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A person holds a gold string across yellow measuring tape

4. Calculate scale distances

If you’re making a scale-distance model, keep reading for two different methods of computing scale distances. For a calibration-size model, skip to Step 5.

Calculate manually:

  1. Download the altitude calculation chart (DOCX).
  2. Multiply the calibration factor on the chart by the altitude to each planet in astronomical units (AU). Note: When using the suggested x centimeters per 1 AU, you lot’ll need about x feet betwixt the Sun and Neptune. If y’all desire your model to span a longer or shorter altitude, you can change the scale value accordingly.

Summate using a spreadsheet:

  1. Download the Calibration Distance spreadsheet (XLSX or CSV).
  2. Create a formula in your spreadsheet that volition calculate the distance from the Sun to each planet (in centimeters) in your model. The formula should multiply the AU value by the number of centimeters you want each AU to represent, your calibration value.
  3. A spreadsheet multiplication formula follows this format: =B3*x, where B3 is the cell with a planet’south AU distance and x is the scale value. B refers to the cell cavalcade and three refers to the cell row.

Try different scale values to make your scale model span a shorter or longer distance, depending on where yous want to place it.

Once yous’ve done your calculations, become to Steps viii-10 for a few dissimilar ideas for creating and displaying your model. You lot tin also come up with your own creative display using your choice of materials.

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See "About the image" below for image description

v. Summate scale planet sizes

If you’re making a scale-size model, keep reading for 2 different methods of calculating the calibration sizes of the planets. For a scale-distance model, encounter Step iv above.

Calculate manually:

  1. Download the size adding chart (DOCX).
  2. Choose the size (bore) y’all desire Earth to be in your model (for example i cm).
  3. For each planet, multiply the size y’all chose for Globe past the multiplier value on the nautical chart. The multiplier is a planet’s size compared with Globe. This will give you the scale size of each planet.

Calculate using a spreadsheet:

  1. Download the Scale Size Calculator spreadsheet (XLSX or CSV).
  2. Choose the size (diameter) you desire Earth to be in your model (for example x cm).
  3. Create a formula in your spreadsheet that will calculate the diameter of (distance across) each planet in centimeters. The formula should multiply the size yous chose for Earth past the multiplier value for each planet. The multiplier is a planet’due south size compared with Globe.
  4. A spreadsheet multiplication formula follows this format: =B3*10, where B3 is the cell with a planet’s multiplier (its size compared to Earth) and 10 is the size you chose for Earth. B refers to the prison cell column and 3 refers to the cell row.

Effort different values for Earth to make your calibration planets larger or smaller depending on the materials you have available to represent the size of each planet.

In one case you’ve washed your calculations, go to Stride 9 to find out how to make a sidewalk chalk scale model. You lot can also come upwardly with your own creative brandish using your selection of materials.

About the epitome:
This artist’s rendering (available as a downloadable affiche) shows the planets of our solar system lined up equally if they were transiting the Sun. Although such a view would not exist possible in reality, the graphic is intended to show the accurate scale of the planets, relative to each other and the Sun. › Full image and caption

A satellite image of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory overlaid with circles of different colors and sizes representing the orbits of planets in a scale size and distance model of the solar system

6. Calculate combined calibration altitude and planet size

If you are interested in a more accurate way to represent the solar system and have a lot of space (at least one-half a mile!) to work with, try making a model of the solar system that displays altitude and planet size at the same calibration. Otherwise, skip this step.


  1. Download the Scale Size and Distance Spreadsheet (XLSX or CSV) or the Solar Organisation Sizes and Distances reference guide if calculating manually.
  2. Make up one’s mind on the bore of Earth in your calibration model. Keep in listen that a i-cm World means the scale distance from the Sun to Neptune is about two miles. Consider making your scale World only a few millimeters across. To summate the scale solar system, you’ll need to work with proportions and ratios, every bit shown in this equation.

    Scale Diameter / Scale Distance = Actual Diameter / Actual Distance

    Calibration Diameter / Scale Distance = Actual Diameter / Actual Distance | + Aggrandize prototype

  3. Using the actual diameter of and altitude to a planet, forth with your scale bore of Earth, y’all can rearrange the equation to find the unknown sizes and distances. To outset, use the calibration diameter you chose for Earth, and rearrange the equation as shown beneath to solve for the unknown scale altitude from Earth to the Sun. You tin can calculate this past paw or create a spreadsheet function that calculates this value.

    Scale Diameter (Actual Distance) / Actual Diameter = Scale Distance

    Scale Diameter (Actual Distance) / Bodily Diameter = Scale Distance | + Expand image

    Spreadsheet screengrab of Step 6 showing the formula =(B5*E5)/D5 being added.

    In this example, the spreadsheet role divides the production of Earth’s calibration bore (B5) and actual distance from the Sun (E5) by Earth’southward actual diameter (D5) using =(B5*E5)/D5 to find the scale altitude from Globe to the sun. | + Expand prototype

  4. To calculate the scale diameter of the other planets, you demand to rearrange proportional ratios and write equations similar to what you did in the previous footstep using the scale Earth bore in your equation. Past rearranging the equation below, you can calculate by hand or create a formula in the spreadsheet to find both calibration diameter and scale distance for the remaining planets. Notation: If y’all alter the scale bore of Earth in the spreadsheet, it will crusade the functions to recalculate the scale values for the other planets equally well.

    Scale Planet Diameter / Scale Earth Diameter = Actual Planet Diameter / Actual Earth Diameter

    Calibration Planet Diameter / Scale Earth Diameter = Bodily Planet Bore / Actual World Diameter | + Expand image

    Spreadsheet screengrab of Step 7 showing the formula =(B5*D6)/D5 being added.

    In this case, the product of the calibration diameter of Earth (B5) and the actual bore of Mars (D6) is divided by the bodily diameter of Earth (D5) using =(B5*D6)/D5 to observe the calibration diameter of Mars. | + Expand image

  5. Next, use the calibration Earth bore and proportional ratios to discover the scale distances to the other planets past rearranging the equation below.

    Scale Planet Distance / Scale Earth Diameter = Actual Planet Distance / Actual Earth Diameter

    Scale Planet Distance / Calibration Globe Diameter = Actual Planet Altitude / Actual Earth Diameter | + Aggrandize paradigm

    Spreadsheet screengrab of Step 8 showing the formula =(B5*E6)/D5 being added

    In this example, the spreadsheet function calculates the product of the scale diameter of Earth (B5) and the actual altitude to Mars (E6) divided by the actual diameter of Globe (D5) using =(B5*E6)/D5. | + Expand prototype

  6. Repeat the previous steps for the remaining planets.
  7. Use a ruler, compass, string, protractor, or another tool to depict circles of appropriate sizes for each planet. Y’all can color the circles to resemble the planets’ appearances.
  8. Using online mapping software, such every bit Google or Bing maps, right-click on the location that represents the Sun (e.k., your abode) and click “measure distance” to place where the scale planets should become. Depending on the calculated size of the scale model, you may desire to check with neighbors and friends to see if they tin can host the more distant planets in your calibration model.

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7. Create and display your model

Now information technology’s time to create your model! There are lots of ways you tin can create and display your scale solar system. With your measurements calculated, choose one of the options below, or come upwards with your own.

An animated image looking down as a person walks through a sidewalk chalk model of the solar system

A person holds with buttons of different sizes and colors tied to it across yellow measuring tape

8. Make a Solar Organization on a String (scale distance model)

Tie colored beads onto a string to make a scale model of the distances betwixt planets in the solar organization. You lot tin article of clothing your model or even brandish information technology on a wall.


  • String (enough to span the distance to Neptune, plus an actress 30 cm)
  • Beads, washers, or some other object to mark the distance to each planet on the cord
  • Calculated distances from Footstep 4


  1. Measure and cutting a piece of string about 30 cm longer than the distance you calculated from the Lord’s day to Neptune.
  2. Tie a bead representing the Sunday to ane end of the string using a double knot. If you don’t have beads, you can tie metal washers to the cord, attach planet cutouts or trading cards, or merely use tape to marking the location of the Sun.
  3. Using the distances (in centimeters) that you calculated, measure the altitude from the Sun on the string to each planet and necktie a colored bead in place using a double knot. If you tin, choose chaplet that are the colors of the planets and the Sun.
  4. Once you take fastened all your beads or marked your planets on the string in some way, straighten out the cord to encounter your calibration solar system!

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The Sun and planets drawn in chalk extend up a concrete walkway

9. Solar System on the Sidewalk (scale distance and/or size model)

Utilize chalk to make a walkable scale model of the distances between planets and/or the sizes of planets in the solar system. Invite your family and friends to have a walk through your scale model.


  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Calculated distances from Footstep 4 or distances and sizes from Step six


  1. Use sidewalk chalk to depict the Dominicus on the ground.
  2. Measure the distance y’all calculated to each planet and describe them at their scale distances.
  3. If yous calculated the planet sizes compared with each other, measure those sizes as you depict them, giving your planets the correct diameter.
  4. You tin can draw your planets all along a single straight line from the Dominicus, but if you have enough infinite, consider drawing them at their correct altitude in dissimilar spots in orbit around the Sun.

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A man kneels down in a grassy field holding a card with a picture of Mars on it.

x. Solar System in the One thousand (calibration distance model)

Utilize distance markers like cones or popsicle sticks in your yard or an open area to create a scale model of the distances between planets in the solar system.


  • Popsicle sticks, cones, or other objects to mark distances
  • Calculated distances from Step iv


  1. Use distance markers like cones, ground stakes, or popsicle sticks to mark the locations of the planets at the distances you calculated.
  2. Attach drawings or cutouts of the planets to their markers.

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