Earth's Place in the Solar System

Source: Interactive Earth

Type: Investigation

Theme: Nature

Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Learning Target: Students will compare orbital and rotational differences between the Sun, Earth, and Moon.


For this investigation each student will illustrate a diagram showing how the Moon and Earth rotate and how they orbit around the Sun.

  1. View this web page and watch the video.
  2. Explore the Sun, Earth and Moon animation. 
  3. Configure the model so it will work in a diagram. Keep in mind that diagrams of the solar system are usually not to scale. If they were, you would not be able to practically fit them in a diagram. Since the Sun has a diameter 100 times larger than the Sun, you will need to scale the Earth so it will help users make sense of the rotation and orbital relationships. The Moon has a diameter of 1/4 the Earth, so that scale may be shown. Additionally, the Earth is 150 million kilometres (93 million miles) from the Sun. And the Moon is 400,000 km (a quarter of a million miles) from Earth, so showing those relationships will be impossible.
  4. Build a model of the orbits and rotations. Include each of the following in your illustration.
    1. Sun, Moon and Earth
    2. Show the Earth's rotational axis.
    3. The Earth's rotational direction. Use curved arrows.
    4. The Moon's rotational direction. Use curved arrows.
    5. The Moon's orbital path and direction around the Earth. Use ellipses and arrows.
    6. The Earth's orbital path and direction around the Sun. Use ellipses and arrows.
    7. Use pen, ink, color, marker, etc. Give the illustration some style. Make it clear.
  5. Final product will be a JPG file (graphic).

View Sun, Earth and Moon Animation

For the full investigation, see Earth's Place in the Universe

Exit Ticket
CCSS Math Practice
  • I can model with mathematics.
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts
  • Systems and System Models


Renee's Sun, Earth, Moon Diagram
Henrielle's Sun, Earth, Moon Diagram