In Quest of...

Getting to Know Your Celestial Neighborhood

Created By Matthew Huffine for the

Lewis Center for Educational Research, Apple Valley California


Since the time humans began observing the cosmos, the sun and the system for objects that orbit earth's closest star, astronomers have been collecting information and images that help us, the next generation of astronomers, to better understand what exists beyond the surface of our planetary home. As an amateur astronomer, before you can propose testable hypothesizes and develop working theories about the origin, interactions and future of our solar system and the cosmos beyond, it is helpful to have a good grasp of two things: firstly, you need a sufficient working knowledge about the objects in your celestial neighborhood, your immediate solar system, secondly, it is helpful to have an appreciation for the dimensions of time and space in which our solar system operates. It is the goal of  the WebQuest to help you not only expand what you already know about our star's solar system and the dimensions that encompass its motions, compared to our everyday experience, but to encourage you to consider what could be beyond our celestial neighborhood.

The Task

Before you develop your personal planetary portfolio then plan, design and build your scale model of the solar system, you need to first gather some background information about the solar system and the objects found in it. You can explore the resources below, take notes from these sources in your ISSN's (Interactive Student Science Notebooks) and on the Celestial Object Data Sheet (CODS), and share your findings with others in your design group. You may split up the work on your team and assign people to investigate different sites and/or different planet, moons, etc.

Your group will gather information to answer the following questions and do the following tasks:

1. What are the nine planets and where are they located relative to the sun and to the Earth? How do the planets compare to each other in various aspects such as size, number of moons, length of year, rotation, temperature, atmosphere, composition (what they are made of), density and so on?

2. What is the force of gravity like on other planets and how would that affect the weight of a person or spacecraft on any given planet?

3. There are other things besides the planets in the solar system that scientists are studying or are interested in studying (such as the moons of various planets, comets, solar wind, the sun, asteroids, and the Oort cloud.) What kinds of things are already known about them?

4. Using your completed personal planetary portfolio and working knowledge about measurement and scale, your group will construct a model of the solar system in which the sun and planetary dimensions of size (2-D disk area) and average distance from the sun are scaled to an appropriate measure for viewing on campus when set up.


The following internet sites have been located to assist you in your search for information about the celestial objects in our solar system

Try... Internet Searching Tools... 

for some good ways tools to search out what you are looking for!

The Process

  1. Organize yourself
  2. Do Your Research & Web Search
  3. Organize your Information
  4. Create your Personal Planetary Portfolio
  5. With your group, chose an appropriate scale and make a Solar System Model plan
  6. Construct Scale Models of the Sun and other Celestial Objects
  7. Set up the Models of your Solar System objects using appropriate scaled down average orbitary distances
  8. Hand in your finished Individual Personal Planetary Portfolio for Evaluation and set up your design group's Scale Model of the Solar System, give a oral presentation to the class, and have it checked for Accuracy and Scale











Research & Information Gathering Does not use web sources to address the posed questions and problems. Used web resources to somewhat answer the questions but in an unrelated manner. Used web resources to correctly answer most, but not all, of the posed questions and problems. Effective used web resources to directly answer all the posed questions and problems.
Sharing Information Does not relay any information to teammates. Relays very little information - some relates to the topic. Relays some basic information - most relates to the topic. Relays a great deal of information - all relates to the topic.
Attractiveness of Personal Celestial Portfolio Illegible writing, missing CODS for some celestial objects, loose pages. Legible writing, some CODS are incomplete, hard to read, papers stapled together. Legible writing, complete CODS, clean and neatly bound in a report cover, illustrations provided. Neatly written, word processed or typed, complete CODS, clean and neatly bound in a report cover, illustrations provided.
Appropriate Choice and Use of Scale for Solar System Model Did not understand the concept of picking an appropriate scale and/or did not use that scale correctly. Did not pick an appropriate scale which is evident in the the construction and set up of the Solar System Model Picked an appropriate scale but did not completely use it while constructing the celestial objects and/or setting up the model and orbit distances Picked an appropriate scale and used it while constructing the celestial objects and setting up the model and orbit distances
Realistic Recreation of Celestial Objects used in the Solar System Model The planetary objects constructed for the model bore no resemblance to what is known, some celestial objects are missing The planetary objects constructed for the model bore little resemblance to what is known or can be found on the web. Some information found during CODS research was used to realistically reconstruct scale models of the the celestial objects used in the model. Information found during CODS research was clearly used to reconstruct scale models of the celestial objects constructed for the model.
Successfully worked as a group to complete the task Did not attempt to contribute to the success of the group.   Was not a valuable asset to the group. Only valued work and effort of other group members to a small extent.  Was not a true team player who worked for the good of the group as a whole. Had success when working individually, but struggled slightly when it came to collaborating with the group.  Could have done more to value the effort and work of all group members Completed individual task and contributed to the group's success as a valuable team player.  Had a positive attitude and showed respect to all group members


After completing this WebQuest you will have developed a usable planetary portfolio which you can use to further your study of Your Celestial Neighborhood. You will have used your portfolio to construct a Scale Model of the Solar System. You will have developed a better appreciation for the distances that separate objects in your immediate Celestial Neighborhood. Finally, you will have had an opportunity to use the internet to learn facts about Your Celestial Neighborhood that you found interesting and meaningful.

Last updated April 37, 2004



Based on a template from The Webquest Page.