Monday 21 November 2011

The wonders of the solar system

So what did you do on the weekend? After twitching the Sharp Tailed Sandpiper on Saturday, Sunday was a a family day. Jamie had been asking me for a few days to help him with a science project that had to be in, today, Monday.

The task was to build a replica (not to scale!) of the solar system. Easy, I thought, no problem. Off to the Hobby Craft we went to buy various sized polystyrene balls to use as planets. I already have loads of coloured paints for MY art project, but that's a story for another time.

We spent the first couple of hours painting the planets and letting them dry, cunningly fashioning Saturn's rings from a circular cheese spread box. At this point we still had no idea how to display them, as they had to be in the right order from the sun. Plan A was to slot them onto a number of rods pushed though the sun, but a trip to B&Q and Homebase failed to produce anything anywhere near what we needed. We needed a plan B. After much head scratching we came up with plan C; use the cardboard tray that our newly bought fridge had been sitting in; at approximately 1m square, we could paint it black as a back drop. I was worried that the paint wouldn't dry in time to start putting it together, so with a slight alteration to plan C(a), we taped black bin liners to the inside of the cardboard tray.

Next we had to work out a way to display the planets. Thinking back to my Blue Peter watching days, it soon came to me. Egg cartons! Off we went to buy a dozen eggs, and were soon back cutting up the box to leave 10 cup shaped holders to place the planets in. First of all, we had to paint them black and let them dry, an hour later we were ready to start assembling the piece. Each painted holder was glued into the appropriate position, and allowed to dry.

While allowing for the glue to dry, here's a quick test for you. Now come on, no cheating. Name the planets in the correct order, nearest the sun first.

Got it? Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and for this project's purposes Pluto, that is no longer, as you no doubt know, officially a planet.

With the glue dried, the planets were placed in position. All that was left to do was to compile a table of extra information for each planet; distance from the sun, orbit time, revolve time, surface temperatures etc, all researched, typed out and stuck down. And that was that. Well sort of. The model was so big that there was no way Jamie could get that to school on a bus. So my final act of helping out was to drive him to school this morning. All I can say is I hope I, sorry Jamie, gets a deserved A+. It only took a mere 7.5 hours, but it was worth it!

Voila! Who needs Doctor Brian Cox!

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