In planning their St Andrew’s Space Station (SASS) our students came across this real life problem.  Can we fit a real scale sized model of the SOLAR SYSTEM in our school hall?  To answer this question, they were challenged with the following activity:


The Air and Space Museum in Washington has a model of the solar system, showing the size of each planet in relation to the size of the Sun.   When we visited the museum last July, we realized some of the planets were very small in comparison to the Sun, but the scale used was such that all planets could be represented in the right proportion. We also remember that the room where they were exhibited had a very high ceiling and the Sun was painted from bottom to top of one of the walls.

What we did not check was the scale used for the model!

In your groups, we need you to find two possible scales for all these conditions to be possible.


  • The Sun was painted from floor to ceiling and it was enormous!
  • All planets have to be visible when represented in the model.
  • Your final diameters should be rounded to one decimal place.


Put your heads together and decide how you are going to find the diameters of each planet and Sun, so that these conditions can be reached successfully.

Show all the steps followed to find the IDEAL SCALE.

Then, calculate the two diameters of each body, using each of your scales.

Decide which of the two scales is the most convenient to make a real model of the SOLAR SYSTEM!


MUSEOLOGISTS IN ACTION:  Click on the links below to see how our students used their Math´s skills to find the best possible scale to represent the SOLAR SYSTEM.



These are some of their findings….

SCALES 1cm-4,000 km 1 cm-1,000 km

1mm – 100 km

7cm- 100,000 km 1cm-2000 km 3cm to 1000km

1cm to 333.3km

1cm- 100cm 1cm-950km
SUN 3.48 M 1392 CM 9.7 M 6.9 M 4.2 M 139 M 14.7m
1.3 CM 4.9 CM 3.4 CM 2.4 CM 1.5 CM 48.7 CM 5.1cm
VENUS 3.0 CM 12.1 CM 8.4 CM 6CM 3.6 CM 1.2 M 12.7cm
EARTH 3.2 CM 12.7CM 8.9CM 6.3CM 3.8CM 1.3 M 13.4cm
MARS 1.7CM 6.8 CM 4.7 CM 3.3CM 2CM 67.6 CM 7.1cm
JUPITER 35.7 CM 1.4 M 1 M 71.4CM 42CM 14.3 M 1.5m
SATURN 29.1 CM 1.2 M 81.5 CM 58CM 34.9CM 11.6M 1.2m
URANUS 11.7 CM 46.9 CM 32.9 CM 23.4CM 14CM 4.7 M 49.4cm
11.4 CM 45.4 CM 31.8 CM 22.7CM 13.6CM 4.5 M 47.8cm



Categories: Professional Development Contest 2016

1 reply

  1. Interesting findings! They all looked busy and enthusiastic at work!! Maths at work!! I would love to visit the exhibit!!

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