This is a model of our Solar System, picturing the Sun and the eight planets that orbit it (plus the dwarf planet Pluto if you want to include it): the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto (a dwarf planet).
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) was a Polish astronomer who developed the Copernican system, a model of the solar system in which all the planets orbit the Sun.
- A round piece of cardboard about 1 ft across (the cardboard from a frozen pizza works well)
- Lots of colors of oak tag (or construction paper)
- Pencil, crayons, or markers
- A compass (for making circles)
Find the center of the large cardboard circle by drawing a line from top to bottom and a line from right to left. Where these two lines meet is the center of the circle. This will be the position of the Sun.
Using a compass, draw the orbits of the 8 planets (plus Pluto if you’re including it). For the orbits, draw circles around the center of the piece of cardboard.
The first 4 planets orbit relatively close to the Sun, then there is a gap (this is where the asteroids orbit). Then the last 4 planets (and Pluto also) orbit very far from the Sun.
Using an awl, the sharp point of scissors, or a large nail, punch a series of holes in the cardboard. First punch a hole in the center (this is where the Sun will hang). Then punch one hole somewhere on each circle (orbit); a planet will hang from each hole.
If you want an accurate picture of where the planets actually are today, click here.
Cut circles from oak tag to represent the Sun and each of the planets. Since the range in size of the Sun and the planets is far too large to represent accurately, just make the Sun the biggest. Make Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune a bit smaller than the Sun. Make the remainder of the planets much smaller. Saturn has beautiful rings.
Write the name of each celestial body on its back.
Tape a length of string to each planet (and the Sun). Lace the other end of each string through the correct hole in the large cardboard circle (Mercury goes in the innermost orbit, Venus goes in the second orbit, Earth goes in the third, etc). Tape the end of the string to the top side of the cardboard.
After all the planets (and the Sun) are attached, adjust the length of the strings so that the planets (and Sun) all lie in a plane.
To hang your model, tie three pieces of string to the top of the cardboard, then tie these three together. Tie them to a longer string (from which you’ll hang your model).
You now have a model of our solar system!