Earth and Space Science

A Stunning Scale Model of Our Solar System, Drawn in the Desert

Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:31 AM


I just ended my Earth's Place in the Universe course with this video
https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/417309/our-place-in-the-universe/
It is well worth the view and the companion video on how they did it

How they did it

"A group of friends discovered there were no proportional models of the solar system with complete planetary orbits—most portray the planets and moons as too close together. So, they decided to build one. On a dry lakebed in Nevada, the group constructed a model by drawing circles in the desert around a 1.5 meter sun and a marble-sized Earth small enough to get lost in filmmaker Wylie Overstreet's pocket. The result is a stunning work of land art that allows viewers to see the full circle of the Earth with their own eyes."

Arlene Jurewicz-Leighton
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
41595 Activity Points

Thu May 18, 2017 11:41 AM

Arlene! This is incredible.

Pamela Dupre
Pamela Dupre
81447 Activity Points

Tue May 30, 2017 4:23 PM

Arlene, that was stunningly beautiful. I have worked with my students to develop a "peppercorn earth" model of the solar system from the sun to Pluto in which the earth was a peppercorn and the sun was a grapefruit and the other planets were appropriately sized common object. But we had to confront the misconception that the planets were all lined up. This approach is awesome - although I did flinch when he said that Neptune was the end of the solar system. I would have loved it if they had given an indication of the beginning of the Kuiper Belt with Pluto and then another indication of the Oort Cloud.

Donald Boonstra
Donald Boonstra
8215 Activity Points

Sat Jun 03, 2017 9:16 AM

Yes Don and everyone considering using this video

Don's  observation:
Arlene, that was stunningly beautiful. I have worked with my students to develop a "peppercorn earth" model of the solar system from the sun to Pluto in which the earth was a peppercorn and the sun was a grapefruit and the other planets were appropriately sized common object. But we had to confront the misconception that the planets were all lined up. This approach is awesome - although I did flinch when he said that Neptune was the end of the solar system. I would have loved it if they had given an indication of the beginning of the Kuiper Belt with Pluto and then another indication of the Oort Cloud."

Reminds me of the quote by British statistician George Box " "essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful".  

I have seen other  models  such as the one in Maine http://pages.umpi.edu/nmms/solar/ which stretches for forty miles but does not include the orbits.  This one was pre dwarf planet Pluto :)  


Yes, they did not include that no orbits are perfectly circular or co-planar.  Wonder how they might include in this model the orbit of Pluto and Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud on this desert surface. Perhaps we need a VR model overlay

Here is another simulation we discussed in the course http://www.astronoo.com/en/articles/positions-of-the-planets.html which includes Pluto and other dwarf planets and their orbital inclinations to the plane of the ecliptic.

This brought up for me how to use models and simulations as ways to find what is depicted and not depicted to develop understanding in your classroom

Here is one of my all time fav NGSS web seminars: 
Preparing for NGSS: Developing and Using Models

http://learningcenter.nsta.org/resource/?id=10.2505/9/WSNGSS12_Sep25

This is my review:

"Presenters Christina Schwartz and Cynthia Passmore discuss the 8 NGSS scientific and engineering practices to highlight how models are used in these areas. Includes vignettes of scientific modeling in a 5th grade evaporation/condensation unit and high school genetics. Take home message is that modeling is more than a representation but a tool and method for students to explore and refine their collective sense making. Well worth the time to watch. You will be inspired by what good science practice is in a classroom!"

Perhaps we can explore ways to use these types of simulations and models to explore and refine understanding.

Arlene Jurewicz-Leighton
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
41595 Activity Points

Sun May 21, 2017 12:55 PM

Thank you, this is a great resource~

Chynell Moore
Chynell Moore
210 Activity Points

Wed May 31, 2017 10:34 AM

Thanks for sharing Arlene! We use the peppercorn model too Donald, and it does pose some problems. I do like to have students estimate first where they think the Earth is before we actually measure it out. They are always surprised!

Frieda Lamprecht
Frieda Lamprecht
1555 Activity Points

Wed May 31, 2017 1:59 PM

Just received this!

Free STEM Education Webinars From NASA Educator Professional Development
Audience: In-service, Pre-service, Home School and Informal Educators
The NASA STEM Educator Professional Development Collaborative (EPDC) at Texas State University is presenting a series of free webinars open to all educators. Join NASA education specialists to learn about activities, lesson plans, educator guides and resources that bring NASA into your classroom. Registration is required to participate. To register, simply click on the link provided beneath the webinar description.

May 30, 2017, at 4:00 p.m. ET: NASA Solar System Scale and Origin (Grades K-12) -- This webinar will provide educators with two interactive Solar System activities. Educators will review the definition of accretion, and walk through activities about scale and the beginning of our beautiful Solar System. Educators will be given the opportunity to discuss two educator guides, Exploring the Moon and Meteorite Mysteries, which host more than 20 activities for the K-12 classroom. Register online to participate. https://www.etouches.com/254266
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May 30, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. ET: Mars -- Here We Come! Guest: Dr. Pascal Lee, Author (Grades K-12) -- Dr. Pascal Lee is a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute. He is also chairman of the Mars Institute and director of the NASA Haughton-Mars Project at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. His research is on the history of water on Mars and planning the future human exploration of Mars. Dr. Lee has led over 30 expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica to study Mars by comparison with the Earth. He also studies asteroids and the two moons of Mars. Register online to participate. https://www.etouches.com/250710
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May 31, 2017, at 4:00 p.m. ET: NASA Digital Badge for Educators: A Way to Personalize Your Learning (Grades K-12) -- Digital badges, or microcredentials, are online representation of online learning experiences. They offer educators an opportunity to personalize their professional development. NASA EPDC Digital Badging System offers various opportunities for educators to learn about NASA topics and classroom activities while earning hours of professional development. This webinar will offer a walkthrough of the Digital Badging System and will look through some current opportunities for all educators. Register online to participate. https://www.etouches.com/242639
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Frieda Lamprecht
Frieda Lamprecht
1555 Activity Points

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