Pocket Solar System: Make a Scale Model

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This fun and simple hands-on astronomy activity lets learners build a scale model of the universe with little more than adding machine tape. Learners are often surprised to find how empty the outer solar system is (there is a reason they call it space!) and how close, relatively speaking, the orbits of the planets of the inner solar system are. The pdf contains step-by-step instructions, photos, presentation tips, common misconceptions about our solar system, and links to background information.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per student)

  • Paper tape at least 2 inches wide (like from a cash register or adding machine); each student needs a piece about their own height
  • pencils (one per student)
  • Scissors (optional; you could just tear the tape)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
      • Stars and Galaxies
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement

Informal Categories

  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 2008