Create a Pocket Solar System
Hosted by: Girlstart
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- Saturday, February 27, 2021, 12 p.m. - 4 p.m.
- Sunday, February 28, 2021, 12 p.m. - 4 p.m.
- Saturday, March 6, 2021, 12 p.m. - 4 p.m.
- Sunday, March 7, 2021, 12 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Recommended Grades: 4th, 5th, 6th
The Challenge: Create a pocket-sized model that shows the relative distance of the planets in our Solar System. Have fun with fractions as you discover just how much space is in space!
- Clear tape or glue stick (only if using copy paper)
- Colored pencils or markers
- Pencil or pen
- Receipt paper, copy paper, or toilet paper (receipt paper works best)
If you are using copy paper:
- Cut copy paper into 3” wide strips and tape or glue these strips end-to-end until you have a thin piece of paper that is 3-5 feet long.
If you are using receipt or toilet paper:
- Cut off a 3-5-foot piece of receipt or toilet paper.
Once you have your 3-5-foot piece of paper ready to go:
- Draw and label the Sun at one end of the paper. As you continue to label the planets, make sure that you write all the planet labels on the same side of the long strip of paper and always write your label at the point of the fold you make.
- Fold the piece of paper in half (bring the ends together). Unfold and label this midpoint “Uranus.”
- Now, fold the Sun side over to Uranus and unfold. Label this new point, ¼ of the paper away from the Sun, “Saturn.”
- Fold the non-Sun side over to Uranus and unfold. Label this new point, ¾ of the paper away from the Sun, “Neptune.”
- Start with the Sun again and fold it over to Saturn. Label this new point, 1/8 of the paper away from the Sun, “Jupiter.”
- Now, fold the Sun over to Jupiter. Label this new point, 1/16 of the paper away from the Sun, “Asteroid Belt.”
- Fold the Sun over to the Asteroid Belt. Label this new point, 1/32 of the paper away from the Sun, “Mars.”
- Finally, add the three remaining planets, “Mercury,” “Venus,” and “Earth,” in that order, in the space between the Sun and Mars.
- Take some time to draw and decorate the planets that you labeled on your pocket Solar System. Then, roll or fold up your paper and place it in your pocket!
For a PDF version of this lesson, click on the following link: POCKET SOLAR SYSTEM
Share your design and observations on Flipgrid.
How does this activity connect to STEM and today's Girl Day theme of Imagining Beyond: Sky and Space?
Have you ever heard of the term “inner planets?” If not, after completing this activity, do you think you could guess which of the planets in our Solar System are considered “inner planets?” If you guessed Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, you are correct! If we think of the entire strip of paper as the number “1,” those four planets, and the distance between them, fit into only 1/32 of the paper. That is just over 3% of Solar System space for 4/8, or 50%, of the planets. Many models or drawings of our Solar System tend to show planets spaced out pretty evenly (see below). However, our planets are definitely not evenly spaced out. For example, Earth is 225 million kilometers from Mars, but Mars is 630 million kilometers from Jupiter. The pocket Solar System that you just made represents an actual scale for how far apart the planets in our Solar System are.
Look at your pocket Solar System, specifically the distance from Earth to Mars. It seems pretty small, right? Well, it would take you almost 80 years to drive a car from Earth to Mars at 96 kilometers per hour (~60 miles per hour) without stopping. Imagine how long it might take to drive to Jupiter or Saturn! The spacecraft Voyager 2 traveled at a speed of over 56,000 kilometers per hour and it still took it over 12 years to reach Neptune. As we move farther away from the Sun, the distance between planets becomes super far apart. Carry your pocket solar system around with you and amaze your friends with just how much empty space there is in space!
Mathematicians do research to develop and understand mathematical principles. They are concerned with numbers, data, quantity, structure, space, models, and change. They analyze all kinds of measurements and types of data and use mathematical techniques to help solve problems in the world. They often work with teams of scientists and engineers.
Meet Maryam Mirzakhani!
Maryam Mirzakhani grew up wanting to be a writer, but she fell in love with math in high school. During her junior year, Mirzakhani and her best friend became the only Iranian women to qualify for the International Mathematical Olympiad. She won the gold medal both times she attended this competition and received a perfect score her senior year! She moved to the United States for graduate school at Harvard University and eventually became a professor at Stanford University. Mirzakhani’s work concentrated on several branches of theoretical mathematics, and she was particularly fascinated with the geometric and dynamic complexities of curved surfaces, like donut shapes, spheres, and amoebas. Her notable Ph.D. thesis was published in many top mathematical journals. One publication contained a new proof for the Witten conjecture, which connected mathematics and quantum gravity. In 2014, Mirzakhani became the only woman and Iranian to be awarded the Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics!
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