Sadly, Jupiter is a boring color😕

So excited to share our front yard solar system!  I think I learned as much as Carson during this.  As a teacher, I have taught about the solar system for years, but have always searched for ways to show my students the true proportion of the planets in relationship to the sun.

Solar System Calculator

Well, now my search is over!  Whoohoo! I found the best website.  It actually has a solar system calculator!  I was so excited.  You can put in the size you want the sun to be, and it will calculate the rest of the planets’ dimensions.  It will also give the distance that each planet is from the sun, based on the size of the sun that you chose to enter!  For instance, we spray painted a 16 foot sun on our front yard.  Sadly, it was not as fiery as I wanted.  We should have gotten a couple of more cans.  I had to darken the picture, so it would show up (hence the pinkish grass clippings).

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Anyway, with our sun measured at 16 feet, the solar system calculator told us that the distance to Neptune was 10 miles away!  We actually drove it in our van, so Carson could see how far away it would be.  We ended up in Greeneville, at Pizza Inn, so we decided to stop in and have an out of this world meal (hee, hee…couldn’t resist).

Click on this link, to try the solar system calculator for yourself: http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/solar_system/

Ball Hunt

Sooo…after we figured out the measurement for each planet (using the trusty solar system calculator), we went on a ball hunt.  Carson and I gathered every size ball we could find.  I then had Carson use the measuring tape and find which one would be a close fit for each planet.  As you can see in the pictures, we had no ball big enough to represent Jupiter and Saturn. This worked out great, though.  We were able to work on some math/geometry skills. 

Drawing the Planets

Carson figuring out the diameter of Jupiter.
Carson figuring out the diameter of Jupiter.

The diameter of Jupiter was 20 in, with the Sun at 16 feet.  Carson figured out that the middle would be 10.  We put a dot there.  He then marked the end points at 1″ and 20″. He kept the 10″ mark on the dot and rotated the measuring tape, marking the end points each time.  When he thought he had enough, he connected the dots and drew his circle.

His measurements were correct! We have a circle.
His measurements were correct! We have a circle.

We had researched the colors for Jupiter and Saturn.  Sadly, they were quite boring.  I wanted to spice them up a little, but Carson is a purist.  We had to go by the book.

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Attaching the Planets

We bought some very cheap dowel rods at Walmart and taped each ball to the stick with clear packing tape.  You may want to go for .5″ dowels or larger, if you are using heavier planets.  Balloons work great for planets.  You can inflate them to the size you need and paint them.

Mercury at only .5", with the Sun at 16 feet!
Mercury at only .5″, with the Sun at 16 feet!
Earth at almost 2"
Earth at almost 2″

Ok, so doesn’t this amaze you?  I knew the sun was big, but seeing it to scale was really amazing to me!

Earth, Mars and Mercury, with the Sun in the background.
Earth, Mars and Mercury, with the Sun in the background.

Creating the Solar System

My husband had helped me plan it all, but had to be gone when we created it, so mom and dad helped us.  Cole, poor baby, had developed an ear infection, so Mom helped take care of him, while Dad helped nail the planets into the front yard.

He feels powerful right here, holding the Solar System in his arms.
He feels powerful right here, holding the Solar System in his arms. Or maybe he just wants to strangle me, for dragging him into this…haha.

Dad hammered a screw driver in the ground first (no rain in awhile) and then pulled it out and inserted the dowel rod.

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The planet that shall remain nameless…haha.

For the planet in the above picture, we used a balloon and painted it.  I love the way it turned out.  Thankfully, Carson didn’t get the double meaning of its name.  It tickled me every time I had to ask Dad to move it out or to lift it up or something.  I guess you never quite outgrow those junior high days. Hee hee.

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I’m sure our neighbors thought we were nuts.  Here we were on a Friday night spray painting our front yard and dancing around with balls on sticks!  Haha!

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Tada!  Wish it was a closer picture, but I had to get all of the planets in the shot.  Carson is sitting in the middle of the Sun (if you can see it).  Again, it’s pretty cool to see how immense the sun truly is.

And that’s a wrap. The front yard solar system is complete!

 

 

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