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Earlier you learned that one astronomical unit (AU) is the average distance between the sun and Earth. An AU equals 93,000,000 miles.
 
Using a calculator and the chart below, figure out how many AU each planet is from the sun. (To figure out the AU distance your planet is from the sun, divide the planet's distance in miles by 93,000,000. Hint: Take off all of the zeros before dividing.)
 

Distance from Sun (in miles)

         
Mercury   Venus   Earth
36,000,000   67,000,000   93,000,000
         
Mars   Jupiter   Saturn
142,000,000   486,000,000   893,000,000
         
Uranus   Neptune   Pluto
1,797,000,000   2,815,000,000   3,688,000,000
 

Analysis:

1.      What planet is the usually farthest from the sun in AUs?

2.      The sun in the middle of the chart can have planets on each side. Can these planets be further apart than when they are on the same side of the sun?

3.      What planet is closest to Earth when they are both on the same side of the sun?

Highlight the box at the right to check your answers. 1. Pluto 2. Planets can be very far apart when they are on different sides of the sun. 3. Venus
 
Extension Activity:
 
You will use this knowledge along with distance data about our solar system. You will represent these planets in a model based on their distances from the sun.
 

Materials:

  • Calculators
  • Butcher paper, about 2.5 meters long
  • Something to mark each planet on the butcher paper (e.g. stickers, crayons for drawings, etc.)
 

Procedure:

  1. Draw a large sun in the center of butcher paper.
  2. Divide your friends into nine groups and assign a planet to each group.
  3. Using the scale of 1 AU=one inch, place a marker for your planet (drawings or stickers) on appropriate spot in any direction from the sun.
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Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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