Astronomy: Modeling our Solar System Name _____________________
Our objective in this lesson is to create a model of our own solar system using the information
contained in the table below. The first thing you will need to do is to convert the distances of the
planets from the Sun into astronomical units (AU). Then using the speed of light at 186,000
miles per second, calculate how long it takes light from the Sun to reach each of the planets in
our solar system. You will use the distance in AU to create a scale model of the solar system
that you can fit on a roll of toilet paper rolled down the hall.
You will work in groups of 3-4 to do your calculations and create your model. Using a scale of 1
AU = 1.5 feet calculate where each of the objects of the solar system would fit on the toilet
paper scale. Using Appendix A-3: Physical Properties of the Planets and assuming that 1 earth
unit is equal to 1 cm draw the objects in our solar system approximately to size. We will also
assume that the Sun is 100 earth units.
Answer the questions for analysis on the back of this sheet.
Planet Distance from the Astronomical Distance Time for Radius in
Sun (miles) Units (AU) in feet sunlight to Earth
1 AU = 1.5 reach the Units
feet planet 1 EU = 1
SUN N/A N/A N/A N/A 109 CM
Earth 93,000,000 1 cm
Our 250,000 mile from
Eris 9,021,000,000 0.2 cm
Questions for Analysis
1. In what ways does our model represent our solar system in a realistic manner?
2. In what ways does our model fail to provide a realistic representation of our solar
3. In what ways would you change our model to more realistically represent our solar
4. Do you think manned space flight is possible to the outer reaches of our solar system?
What type of technology would we have to develop to make this possible?