Exploring Black Holes and Gravity

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This fun and simple hands-on astronomy activity lets learners imagine what would happen if our Sun were replaced with a black hole. Using a bucket with stretchy fabric over it, this activity allows participants to experiment with marbles and weights to discover some basics about gravity. Learners consider how gravity affects rockets as they launch and attempt to enter orbit around a planet or moon. The PDF contains step-by-step instructions, photos, presentation tips, and links to background information.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Model, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 2 buckets (13”/33 cm plastic black planters)
  • 2.5 pound (1 kg) lead weight, from a fishing or sporting goods store
  • 8 oz (225 g) lead weight
  • 4 oz (100 g) lead weight
  • 2 pee-wee marbles
  • 2 shooter (one-inch/2.5 cm) marbles
  • a few regular marbles
  • 2 bungee cords
  • 2 18" (45 cm) squares of stretch fabric
  • drinking straws
  • large towel or blanket
  • softball


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
      • Stars and Galaxies
      • Probes, Satellites and Spacecraft
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Aerospace Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
      • Newton's Laws
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • Science as a Career


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access