Tag Archives: Planets

The Space Between Planets

Have you ever really sat down to think about how much space there is in the universe? It’s pretty inconceivable, but there are some useful tools that can help put things in perspective. You’ve already seen a scale model of our solar system by mass, so here is a model of the space between our planets that can fit in your pocket!

planets

What you need:

  • Long strip of paper
  • Marker
  • Brain

First, cut a strip of paper long enough that it roughly spans the distance of your arms. Then, have a marker handy to be ready to indicate where each planet will lie.

  1. Label one end of the strip as the sun and the other as Pluto/Kuiper belt.
    1. This will show the full distance between the sun and the outer reaches of the solar system.
  2. Fold the paper in half and crease it. That line is for Uranus, it is roughly halfway between Pluto and the sun!
  3. Fold it in half again (it should now be in quarters). The crease between Uranus and Pluto is for Neptune.
  4. The crease that is between the sun and Uranus is for Saturn.
  5. Now fold the sun to Saturn and mark Jupiter in that crease.
    1. We have completed all of the gaseous outer planets, meaning that all that is left are the rocky inner planets, which fit between the sun and Jupiter!
  6. Fold the sun to Jupiter and label it as the asteroid belt, the area in our solar system where some of the largest known asteroids live.
  7. Now fold the sun to the asteroid belt. This is where Mars goes.
    1. We will complete the remaining three planets in the last step.
  8. Fold the sun to Mars, then fold in half again. Closest to the sun is Mercury followed by Venus, then Earth.

planets 9

Take a look, roll it up, and there you have it! A basic scale model of the distances between the planets of our solar system that can fit in your pocket. Would you have been able to guess how much space there is relatively between our planets? Did any of the spacings surprise you?

Written By: Mimi Garai

The Moon Phases

We can’t take our eyes off it, it helps control our tides, and wolves howl at it; can you name what “it” is? You probably guessed correctly, it’s Luna, also known as the moon! The moon is the largest satellite of Earth, and one of the only natural satellites. This means that there may be other satellites out there orbiting around Earth (thanks to space junk and our cell phone providers), but it is by far the largest and amongst the only that came from space to orbit our home planet. Our moon is also the brightest object in our night sky, so bright in fact that you can sometimes see it during the day. However, the moon seems to be constantly changing. How can that be possible?

moon

To demonstrate what is happening, you can do an easy experiment at home. All you need is a single light source (representing the sun), your face (representing Earth), and a ball or your fist (modeling the moon).

Earth’s gravity has the moon tidally locked, meaning the same half of the moon is always facing Earth, and the other half is always facing away (the dark side of the moon). Since it is tidally locked, your model of the moon does not need to spin. All you have to do now is put your moon between your face and model of the sun and start to rotate counterclockwise (the same direction that Earth spins).

moon lunar

When the moon is between the sun and the Earth, light from the sun cannot reflect from the moon to Earth. This phase is called a “New Moon”. As you keep rotating you will first see a waxing crescent, then: the first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon (Earth is between the moon and the sun), waning gibbous, third quarter, waning crescent, then back to New Moon. If you keep rotating the cycle will continue on and on.  For our real moon this cycle will take about 29 days to be completed.

moon phases

You can easily keep track of this cycle on your own as well. All you need to do is step outside each night and make some observations. Take note of what the day and time is, and what the moon looks like to you. Once you have done this for a couple of weeks you should be able to predict what you will see next! So go ahead, give it a try for yourself and have fun.

Written by: Mimi Garai

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