Do Try This At Home | Solar System Mobile
Make a solar system mobile with everyday items found in your house.
Welcome back to Do Try This At Home - our series of super-fun weekly science activities.
Our building is closed right now, but that doesn't mean we can't do some science at home.
You will need
- A roll of tin foil
- Some tape
- A pair of scissors
- Some string
- Paint or colouring pens to decorate
- A paper plate or piece of cardboard
- PVA Glue
- Newspaper or scrap paper
Our Solar System
There are eight planets in our solar system and they all move around (orbit) our sun. The planets in our solar system are very different sizes, Mars would fit inside Earth nearly seven times and 1300 Earth’s could fit inside Jupiter.
Image credit: NASA and ESA
Ever since we have known planets orbit the sun we have been trying to model their movements, the most well-known model is an orrery.
History of Orrery’s
An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system that works using a clock mechanism. It shows the relative position and movement of the planets in a solar system as well as their relative size. Orrery’s are not made to scale due to the distances involved in solar systems. Even if Earth was made less than one millimetre wide, Uranus would still be over 200 metres away.
The first orrery was made in 1704 by a pair of clockmakers, it was commissioned by Charles Boyle who was the 4th Earl of Orrery, which is where they got their name from.
Make your own solar system mobile
1. Cut a piece of string and tape it to a small piece of foil in a loop. Screw the foil up into a ball, this will be Mercury.
Now repeat this process five times, making the ball bigger each time.
2. For larger planets, screw up a ball of newspaper or scrap paper. Now cover it in foil. Repeat this two times making the final ball much larger.
3. To make Saturn’s ring draw around a circular object like a roll of tape. Then draw around the ball of foil. Cut out the centre, wrap the ring in foil and tape to the ball.
4. You can paint the planets now or cover them in papier mâché.
5. Papier Mâché: Ask an adult to help with this. Mix some PVA Glue and water. Soak strips of newspaper or scrap paper in the glue mix and wrap the foil balls in them. Leave to dry for a couple of hours.
Tip: Put down some newspaper or brown paper to protect the surface you are working on.
6. Paint or colour in the planets, don’t forget the sun!
7. Put some holes in your paper plate or piece of cardboard and attach string to hold each planet, use a knot to stop the string slipping through the hole. Don’t forget to add holes to hang your mobile.
Our paper plate shows the relative position of the planets on the day we made our model, why not have a look at this website to make yours really accurate.
8. Tie the planets through the loop to attach to your mobile. Now find somewhere to hang it.
Some questions for you to think about:
Can you use your mobile to explain how we experience night and day?
Where would you put the Earth’s Moon on your mobile?
How many moons does Jupiter have? Could you add them to your mobile?
And here's one from our collection of 10,000 questions
Isabelle age 9 wants to know
‘Why do planets in our solar system go round the sun?'