Solar System Science Project

A solar system science project has a lot of possible directions - a lot of great choices for a project. This page has many suggestions for possible projects and a lot of information regarding the solar system.

solar system science project

If you need help with science projects or science fair projects in general, you may want to start at our homepage. 

Jump to: Solar System ModelsKuiper BeltOort CloudSolar System Sling Shot, or Solar System Formation 

Solar system Models

A relatively easy and straightforward solar system science project consists of making a realistic model of the solar system using hard foam balls painted to resemble the sun and planets. These orbs can be suspended from a frame using string or each planet can be attached to the large foam sun using stiff wire or wooden rods. Either arrangement is then usually given a black backdrop made of construction paper or cloth to simulate 'space'. 

Reference pictures of the planets can be downloaded from the NASA site. You may also want to include accurate orbital information with your display.

Even with a tiny scale proportion, you will not be able to make a to-scale version of the solar system (unless you have something like a soccer field in which to display it.) So be sure to mention how you are scaling the distance between each planet and the sun in your solar system science project. 

Kuiper Belt

The Kuiper Belt is a very large band of orbiting bodies that exists outside of Neptune's orbit. Scientists believe that there are objects in the Kuiper belt that are as large as 100km in radius.

It is believed that the belt is a remnant of the accretion phase of our solar system - a time when all the planets were forming. It is thought that this belt is the source of the short-period comets that we see.

The objects in the Kuiper Belt are also sometimes called the trans-Neptunian objects (due to its proximity to Neptune.) Scientists only recently (1992) became aware of this belt of objects and is therefore a rich area of present day research, and a great topic for a solar system science project. For more detailed information, look here. 

An interesting solar system science project can be made using the Kuiper Belt (and the comets that compose it) as a subject. A model would probably not be appropriate (although adding it to a normal solar system model would probably be an interesting addition to a normally overdone project), but a compositional investigation could be a worthy project depending on your level.

Oort Cloud

The Oort cloud is a huge spherical volume filled with comets that surrounds the sun. The outside edge of this cloud is about 18 trillion miles from the sun - or about 3 times the distance that light travels in a year.

This cloud is the source of the long-period comets that we see from time to time. Hale-Bopp was just such a comet.

The total mass of all of the objects in the cloud is estimated to be about forty times that of earth. And about 1/6 of this mass lies in a roughly disk-shaped area in the same plane as the planets.

Because the cloud is roughly spherical in shape, comets from it can originate from any direction.

An interesting solar system science project involving the Oort Cloud might include the investigation of all of the characteristics of the objects that compose the cloud, including the average temperature, the reason for the concentration of objects around the accretion disk, and might answer the questions of why comets come out of the cloud and approach the sun and is it possible for some comets to escape the sun entirely. 

Solar System Sling Shot

A great solar system science project might look into the usefulness of the 'sling shot' effect possible using the gravity of the planets and their alignments to help send space craft to where they need to go.

The idea behind this is to use the gravity of a planet to boost the speed of a space ship. Kind of like attaching a string to a rock, swinging it in a circle and then cutting the string - shooting the rock outward from the last position it had in the arc of the swing.

This is not a new idea, in fact some our deep space probes sent to study the planets used this technique to save fuel and transit time.

A solar system science project that describes this process and how it could be used in future missions is fertile ground for scientific discovery. This NASA site offers more information about transfer orbits and the sling shot effect. 

Solar System Formation

Another great solar system science project could be based upon the formation of the solar system.

The solar system was formed from a huge cloud of gas and dust particles that were hanging in space (relatively) close to one another. When enough of these particles got close enough together, they started to clump - forming a gravity well strong enough to draw in more dust and gas. This process of, called accretion caused more and more gas and dust to be pulled into this larger and larger clump.

As the gas and particles fell into this clump (down a gravity well,) they began to spin (kind of like when water is circling the drain in the bath tub) and some new (and smaller) clumps began to form outside the large central clump.

This central clump eventually got so hot and dense from all the friction of new particles falling in on it that it ignited the gas - forming our sun. The smaller clumps circling the sun eventually became the planets and moons.

Your solar system science project could model the early formation of the solar system and describe the events that lead up to it's formation. More information about the formation of our solar system can be found here. 

If you would like more information for your solar system science project,you may want to try the Wikipedia site.