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Become a nitrogen atom in the nitrogen cycle in our Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit/Game. See all our games, activity kits and classroom activities.

A Solar System Model Builders Guide

Imagine you want to build a scale model of the solar system.

First, you need to decide on a scale for your model. Let's say we decide we'll use a marble that is 1 cm across to represent the Earth. Then how big would the Sun and the other planets be and where would they go?

To figure out the sizes of the planets and the Sun compared to our Earth marble, you need to multiply the 1 cm size of Earth by the relative sizes of the Sun and the planets. A marble for the Sun would have to be 109 cm across (bigger than a big beach ball), and a marble for Mercury would be about the size of your pencil's eraser.

Next, you need to figure out where to put your model planets. How far are they from the Sun? At this scale, Mercury would be 46 m (151 feet) from the Sun, Earth would be 118 m (387 feet) from the Sun, and Pluto would be more than 5.8 km (3.6 miles) from the Sun!

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The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, available in our online store, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA