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See the Solar System with your own eyes
There are 8 planets in the Solar System. Look down at your feet to see the Earth. That still leaves 7 more. Did you know that you can see 5 of them with your own eyes? Ancient people have known about the 5 visible planets for thousands of years: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
In some cases, these planets are some of the brightest objects in the night sky. Venus is so bright, it can even be seen in the day if you know where to look.
You need to have a clear night, and the various planets need to be up in the sky at the right time to see them. We suggest that you check out our weekly skywatching column here on Universe Today. It will tell you when various planets are going to be bright and visible. Then go out with the family, and take a look, and learn to identify the planets of the Solar System.
For Uranus and Neptune, you’ll need a telescope, so see if you can find a friend with a telescope who can help you see them.
This is one of the best Solar System activities you can do.
Let your kids see the Solar System in a telescope
Here’s one of the most amazing ways to show your kids the Solar System. Give them an opportunity to see them in a telescope. Almost every town and city in the world has some kind of astronomical society. This is where enthusiasts will spend a few nights a month outside, using their telescopes to observe the skies. They’ll always be happy to let other people try it out.
Do a Google search to find your local astronomical society. Use keywords like: [city] astronomy club. Check out their website, and find out when and where they’ll be observing next. Then show up, and ask the astronomers to help you see objects in the night sky. It will be a memorable experience for your family.
You might be amazed to find out just how much the planets look like the photographs you’ve seen. You can see the rings of Saturn, and the moons of Jupiter, and the bands across the planet. You can even see the ice caps on Mars.
Build a scale model of the Solar System
We’ve got instructions here on Universe Today on how you can build a scale model of the Solar System. You put a yellow circle on a piece of printer paper, and then locate the rest of the planets the right distances away. Even Pluto is only about 1 km away. This really helps your kids understand how big the Solar System really is.
Build a Solar System mobile
If you’ve got less room, and don’t want to actually set up your model in the neighborhood, you can hang the Sun and the planets from one of your kids ceilings: build a Solar System mobile. They won’t be to scale, but they’ll still look great. We’ve got instructions about that here.
We have recorded a whole series of podcasts about the Solar System at Astronomy Cast. Check them out here.