Astronomy Activities

How big are the other planets compared to Earth? How far away are they from the Sun? Here are some activities that will help students get a feeling for the vast scale of the solar system!


Students draw graphs of planet sizes and planet distances and then answer some questions about the planets.

How big are the planets – How far away are the planets from the sun – Planet Sizes – Planet Distances.pdf


Students draw dots on a line to show the relative distances of the planets from the Sun. This is another way of representing information about the planets. Teachers can print the document and then cut it into 3 sections.
The students can use the data from the worksheets above.

Planet Distances on Distance Line.pdf


In this activity, students use a compass to draw the planet sizes to scale.
There are two sheets. One is A4 size and one is A3.
The A4-size sheet should be enlarged to A3 or students can complete their scale drawings on some poster paper.
The A3 sheet can fit all 8 planets but some students choose to draw some of the planets on the back.

Planets Drawn to Scale – This document is A3.pdf
Planets Drawn to Scale – Enlarge to A3.pdf (The pdf is A4 sized.)
    


In this activity, students draw a scale diagram of the distances of the planets to the sun. They will require a compass (like in the previous sheet). Because of the vast distances involved, Page 1 looks at only the terrestrial planets (the first four: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars), and Page 2 looks at Mars and the gas and ice giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.)
   
Planet-Distances-Drawn-to-Scale-(Orbital-Radiuses)-This-document-is-A3.pdf


Phases of the Moon!

In this activity, students will model the Sun-Earth-Moon system to investigate why the moon changes its appearance every day. Inside a darkened room, they will take photographs of the moon (a white styrofoam ball) in different positions on its orbit around the Earth (the camera). The Sun will be a spotlight (like a 50 W LED light).
When I did this activity with my students, I used Google Docs and the groups shared the pictures that they took. For teachers whose students don’t have a Google Drive, I have included an MS Word document which you can share with your students.
Only one group could do it at a time because we only had one spotlight (and too many spotlights would light up the room too much anyway). I had to direct some of the groups about exactly where and how to hold the moon and the camera, because, for example, their hands were casting shadows onto the “moon”, but most students were able to get good photos very quickly.

GOOGLE DOC Version.

Microsoft Word Version.

   
These are a few images I took. The “moon” (the new moon) is barely visible in the first one. Students have to ensure that they don’t block the sun when the “moon” is in the new moon and full moon positions.

I could hold a camera for these shots and the “moon” at the same time but the students were using their laptop cameras so they had to organize themselves into groups of two; one held the “moon” and the other the laptop.
Student examples:


This activity gets students to use a Google Sheet spreadsheet to compare the relative sizes of the planets and their distances to the Sun. The instructions are on the Google sheet but you can also watch the short video below that explains how to draw graphs (or charts) on Sheets. The video uses a line chart as an example, but students should select “Column chart” for this activity.
Relative Sizes and Distances in the Solar System (Google Sheet)

Drawing Graphs on a Spreadsheet.

Practice Graph (Google Sheet) (same as the one in the video)