Way back in November, Claire was studying the solar system in school. For this particular unit, she was given a project: Create a model of the Solar System. There were various ideas for doing this, and the one Claire latched onto immediately was to make it out of clay.
The catch to all this was that the solar system had to be made to scale.
Now, I confirmed that it was just the size that needed to be to scale, because distances would be practically inconvenient to do, as we’d have to put one tiny planet on our kitchen table, and the next one a few miles away in the gas station parking lot; the next one could be at a grocery store…in the next town over, etc. (Logistically, this just wasn’t going to work.) But, even with doing the solar system to scale based on size, the sun was going to be a chunk of clay the size of a bowling ball, if we were, in fact, going to be able to see Mercury with the naked eye.
(This is the part where I asked the teacher if we could just cover a bowling-ball-sized sun object with clay, and she acquiesced.)
Clay Solar System Supplies
We gathered our supplies. The clay was easy to find at a local hobby store. We opted for a fancy modeling clay that isn’t so heavy, dried relatively quickly, and is really easy for budding astronomers to mix. It took us a while, but we found the perfect sun!
Daddy jumped in and said that the solar system WAS going to spin AND be lit, because of course it will. (That is why there is a Lazy Susan in the supply pile next to the upside-down basket sun. The battery-operated LED light we placed in there is not shown.) This particular clay cracks when it’s thin, which Claire said was perfect for showing the surface of the sun.
Making the sun
She was the expert, so we defaulted to her.
Claire cut the dowels, with assistance.
We decided to just cut the dowels in increments, since distance wasn’t to scale.
Sun, Dowels, and a little bit of math
We did our research and found a handy resource from NASA giving us the sizes of the planets, and yours truly did a little math to give us the proper size for our particular clay planets.
Let there be light!
There’s the third little planet from the sun, complete with ice caps, land masses, and oceans.
Did you know the entire solar system fits in a laundry basket? Neither did I, but I’m glad it does! (We took the larger planets off their dowels for transport.)
“Hold on little buddy!” I’d shout at every stop light as the asteroid field wiggled and Pluto (the dwarf planet, demoted from real planet status) jiggled.
“Hold on little buddy!”
(I can’t tell you how many times I grumbled about Pluto not being a planet anymore. “In MY day, it was a planet! Uphill, both ways. In the snow. And it liked it!”)
Needless to say, Claire’s Solar System make quite the impression at school.
It has since been safely transported home and makes a really cool night light. The light peeks through the cracks in the clay of the sun and creates stars on the walls as it spins.
…because of course it does. 😉