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Hands On Mineral Identification helps you to identify over 14,500 minerals! By M. Darby Dyar, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.

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. So 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 Fall 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist, which includes articles on student research into building design for earthquakes and a classroom lab on the composition of the Earth’s ancient atmosphere, is available in our online store.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF