A Universe of Galaxies: How is the Universe Structured?

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This fun hands-on astronomy activity lets learners explore models of the Milky Way and other galaxies to get a sense of relative distances to other galaxies. Part of the activity involves learners moving certain distances from each other to represent distances in the universe. Telescopes and night viewing are recommended but not required. This activity can be used with the general public at a star party, as well as with school-aged learners in a classroom. The PDF contains step-by-step instructions, photos, helpful hints, background information, and ready-to-print handouts. This is the English unit version; see related URLs for a link to the Metric unit version.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • (Optional) telescope (not included in activity cost)
  • 15+ used CDs
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • (Optional) Cotton Ball


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
      • Stars and Galaxies
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • The Scientific Worldview
      • Communicating Results


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access