Take a Celestial Hike

Learn about distances in our solar system by taking an interplanetary hike!

Distances in the solar system are huge! The distance from the Sun to Neptune is nearly three billion miles (four billion kilometers).

It’s not just the distances between planets that are large. There are also huge differences in the size of each planet. Because of this, it can be difficult or even impossible to display both planet size and distance accurately, especially in smaller scale models like an image.

solar system, the universe, the milky way-4947216.jpg

After making Easter bunny ears, we explored the solar system by walking through a scale model of it. I made flags with construction paper and bamboo sticks. The flags represented the sun and the planets. From the sun, the 36 million miles to Mercury was represented by 1 step, the 67 million miles to Venus was represented by 2 steps, etc. After walking the 103 steps to walk all the way to Pluto (yeah, yeah…I know Pluto is now a dwarf planet), my oldest was shocked to find out Alpha Centauri would be 200 miles away. I put it into perspective and talked about the distance to the grandparent’s house. I think my kids got the point!

We discuss taking a Celestial Hike and many other FREE science activities in Episode 030. Early Elementary Hands-On Science:

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astronaut

Now it’s your turn for a
Celestial Hike!

Let’s explore the solar system by walking through a SCALE MODEL of it.

Through completing this lesson, your child will gain an appreciation of the vastness of distances between the planets. You can also compare these distances to the greatest distances that humans have ever traveled.

Materials:

1. Watch this video

Watch this 2 minute YouTube Video to learn about 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 distance accurately.

2. Print your Celestial Markers

3. Attach Celestial Markers to bamboo skewers

You can use tape or hot glue to attach the celestial markers to your bamboo skewers.

If you are brand new to homeschooling, be sure to visit the Getting Started Page

4. Create your scale model of the solar system

Steps:

  1. Head to the park or open field.
  2. Find a place outside where you can take 100 steps in a straight line.
  3. Place the Sun at the beginning of this line.
  4. Now pace off the distances to each planet or celestial body using the table. (below)
  5. Pretend you are a spaceship flying across your entire solar system.
Each step you take will stand for 30 million miles in the real solar system:
Celestial BodyDistance to the SunTotal Steps from the SunStep to take
SunSTART HERESTART HERESTART HERE
Mercury36 million miles11 step
Venus67 million miles21 more step
Earth & Moon93 million miles31 more step
Mars142 million miles41 more step
Asteroid Belt329 million miles117 more steps
Jupiter483 million miles132 more steps
Saturn885 million miles2512 more steps
Uranus1.8 billion miles5025 more steps
Neptune2.8 billion miles7828 more steps
Pluto3.7 billion miles10325 more steps
Alpha Centauri25 trillion miles200 miles!Too far for a marker!

5. Learn more about our solar system:

  • Watch BrainPop – The Solar System
  • Read and learn further from some of these recommended resources:
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