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Have you ever noticed that posters of the entire solar system make it look like the planets are exactly the same distance from each other? In fact, some planets are relatively close together, and some planets are very far apart. Since things are so vast in the solar system, astronauts use a unit of measurement called an Astronomical Unit.

1 AU = 149.6 million km (the distance from the Sun to the Earth)

Chart of Planet Distances
Planet
Astronomical Units from the sun
Mercury
0.4
Venus
0.7
Earth
1
Mars

1.5

Jupiter
5.2
Saturn
9.5
Uranus
19.2
Naptune
30
Pluto
39.5
 

Analysis:

Use the chart above to answer the following questions. Record your answers in your science journal.

  1. Using neighboring planets (ones that are right next to each other):
    • Which two neighboring planets are closest together?
    • Which two neighboring planets are farthest apart?
  2. Which planets are closest together–the inner or outer planets?
  3. Which planets are the warmest?
  4. Which are the coldest?
 
Extension Activity:
 

This activity will help you understand the distance between each of the planets. Remember that this is a model and is not meant to be totally accurate!

Materials:

  • One roll of toilet paper- at least 40 sheets
  • Chart showing the number of A.U.s each planet is from the sun.

Procedure:

  1. You can do this activity alone or with a group of friends.
  2. You will need to be in a long hallway or outside. Unroll the toilet paper and mark each planet according to the chart. One A.U. is equal to one square of toilet paper.
  3. When all the planets are marked, observe your model.
  4. Answer the questions below.

Chart of Planet Distances

PLANET

Astronomical Units

Mercury

0.4

Venus

0.7

Earth

1

Mars

1.5

Jupiter

5.2

Saturn

9.5

Uranus

19.2

Neptune

30

Pluto

39.5

Questions: Record your answers in your science journal.

  • Using neighboring planets (ones that are right next to each other):
    • Which two neighboring planets are closest together?
    • Which two neighboring planets are farthest apart?
  • Which planets are closest together–the inner or outer planets?
  • Which planets are the warmest?
  • Which are the coldest?
  • What would the view of the sun be if you were standing on each planet?
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Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.

Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 6th grade science core.


Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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