Students Bring the Solar System to Scale

Students work on Jupiter in class.It is difficult to imagine how far the Earth is from the Sun or how far the Sun is from dwarf planets like Pluto without a visual accompaniment. Astronomy students and teachers at Liberty and Centennial high schools are bringing the Solar System to life on a grand scale.

Through extensive collaboration, astronomy students across Frisco ISD are creating scale models of key parts of the Solar System at a scale of 1:140 million and placing the moons, planets and asteroids around Texas in an effort to visualize the distance between the celestial objects along with their relative size.

“The Sun, the center of our solar system, is planned to be 10 meters, about 33 feet, across and will be located in the Liberty library,” said Kenric Davies, Liberty astronomy teacher. “As it all comes together, students begin to really understand just how small we are and how difficult it really is to get to other objects in the Solar System.”

To demonstrate “our place in space,” each astronomical object model is approximately 140 million times smaller and closer than the actual planet, asteroid or object would be.

While Jupiter is made up of almost entirely hydrogen and helium, the Jupiter assembled in Davies’ class has a wubble ball core and a mantle of paper mache.

The models, along with a fact sheet, will be placed at numerous locations including: Venus and Halley’s Comet at Frisco Fire Station #8, the three largest objects in the Asteroid Belt at Independence High School, Uranus in Little Elm Park and dwarf planets Pluto and Charon at Celeste High School in Celeste, Texas.

Venus at Liberty High School.The dwarf planet, Sedna, which has a highly elliptical orbit that takes it much farther from the Sun than even Pluto, will be found at Boulter Middle School in Tyler, Texas.

While earth and space science has been offered in Frisco ISD for a number of years, astronomy was officially offered for the first time this school year to juniors and seniors.

In astronomy, students study astronomy in civilization, patterns and objects in the sky, our place in space, the moon, reasons for the seasons, planets, the Sun, stars, galaxies, cosmology and space exploration amongst other topics.

“My class this year is full of passionate, hard-working students who have immersed themselves into this project,” said Sabrina Ewald, Centennial astronomy teacher. “They are enjoying the challenge of constructing their models and some are creating vlogs to document their journey in this endeavor.”

Students in the astronomy class also conduct laboratory and field investigations, use scientific methods and make informed decisions using critical thinking and scientific problem solving. The class is certainly out of this world thanks to teachers like Davies and Ewald who take the class to infinity and beyond.

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