Physics KS3 / KS4: A scale model of the solar system

Tim Peake introduces Dallas Campbell. Dallas shows an orrery – a mechanical model of the solar system.

Before the 17th century most people believed in a geocentric model of the solar system.

Dallas explains the geocentric model and then the heliocentric model developed by Kepler, Copernicus and Galileo.

However, the orrery does not have the correct scale.

Dallas goes outside, near the Greenwich Observatory in Greenwich Park in East London to build his own scale model.

This is based on the sun being the size of a football.

He sets off across the park with a trundle wheel to position the 4 rocky inner planets.

Jupiter sits on the very edge of the park and then the other planets spread out across East London.

Teacher Notes

Key Stage 3

Could be used as a starter or summary to a research lesson or homework.

Students could research models of the solar system and produce a written report, poster or class presentation.

They could focus upon features of the model, who the model is named after and evidence for the model.

Could be used to explain the size and scale of the Solar System.

Students could write a description of the scale and size of the solar system based on the video.

Key Stage 4

Could be used to demonstrate the evidence proving the heliocentric model of the solar system

Students could research the heliocentric and geocentric models of the solar system.

They could produce a report on the features of each model and state the evidence which disproved the geocentric model (Jupiter had moons) and proved the heliocentric model (Mars’ retrograde motion).

Students could calculate the distances and sizes of the planets in the solar system based on the Sun being the size of a football.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching Physics/Science at KS3 and KS4 in England Wales and Northern Ireland. Also at 3rd Level, National 4/National 5 and Higher in Scotland.

More from the series Curriculum Collections: Physics

A scale model of the solar system
Days, Years and Seasons on Earth
How Halley’s Comet inspired Newton’s Law of Gravity
The Origin of the Northern and Southern Lights
Landing a human on Mars
Launching satellites into orbit