Astronomy Class Scales Down Solar System

Written by: Trinity Krouse, Reporter

For two months, Molly Bovos’ Astronomy class has been working on making a model Solar System to show the community an accurate scale of the Solar System. This Solar System model has the size and distance between planets on the same scale. Students had to find information on and make the planets to go in the model. The planets will be placed all over Basehor, and its surrounding area.

“Throughout this process students and adults alike have been shocked by how massive planets like Jupiter and Saturn are compared with Earth and the other terrestrial planets,” said Bovos. “I think that shows that pictures of the Solar System have given people huge misconceptions about just how small Earth is in this giant Universe.”

Most pictures of the Solar System have all the planets in one picture, which does not show the accurate size or distance between the planets.  In the model, some of the planets are the size of marbles, others are the size of a yoga ball.

The sun, at the center of the Solar System, is at the high school. The rest of the planets and objects were placed in a location around town that matched each planet’s orbital path. The furthest planet, Pluto, will be at Linwood Elementary School. Bovos predetermined the location of the sun, and Pluto then based the rest of the scale off of the distance between the two. There are planets at all of the Basehor-Linwood schools, and several other buildings in the surrounding area.

“We will be placing Saturn at Basehor-Linwood Middle School,” said senior Kelsey Fotovich. “We choose this because based on our scale model it was directly in the orbital path that Saturn would take in our model. We will be placing Saturn’s moon at Glenwood Ridge Elementary school.”

In the first step of the project, the students had to get into groups and choose a planet that they would recreate and find information on.

“My group is working on Pluto and its moon, Charon,” said junior Josie Swinford. “We chose it because we thought it would be fun to do a moon along with a planet.”  

The next step of the project was creating posters to be placed on the podiums. Each planet has a podium to be displayed in, and will feature facts about the planet on the posters.

“Taylor White, one of my Astronomy students, has built ten podiums with the help of a few other Astronomy and carpentry students,” said Bovos. “The planets will sit on these podiums at the various locations with information about that planet.”

The smaller planets are made from marbles that were purchased by Bovos, but the larger ones, like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune had to be made by the students. The biggest planet, Jupiter, was made from a yoga ball and covered with paint.

“The hardest [part] was painting the ball. It involved a lot of patience and time, I believe we spent around 6 hours on it. We would paint a layer, wait. Paint a layer, wait. And on and on… there is a lot of detail on the surface and in order to complete that we each had to have a steady hand,” said junior Sarah Grover.

As of now, the planets will be installed before the end of the semester. Bovos is handing out scavenger hunt cards to the kids at Basehor’s elementary schools. At each planet display, there will be a sticker to go on the card, for a total of 10 stickers.