Got a Science Fair in Your Future?

science fair students showing off work
Your science fair project in astronomy can take you and your classmates out of this world!. FatCamera, Getty Images

Is there a science fair in your (or your child's) future? These days, such activities showcase a huge array of science-related technology and experiments. So, why not do an an astronomy or space-related project? There are many good ideas out there, ranging from sundials to long-term observational projects. Let's take a look at some astronomy science fair ideas that can also be family activities. They're a good starting point for any science education project, and can lead you to other interesting topics, and maybe even a life-long love affair with the sky.

Build a Working Sundial.

The ancients used sundials to tell time quite accurately.  Think of them as the first clocks, and they're found everywhere in the world. If your science fair project includes one, you could also well end up with a nice yard decoration, too! Need some inspiration? Many cities have sundials in public places, such as museums, planetariums, and public observatories.  

Make Your Own Telescope

Build a telescope. Galileo did, and so can you. Learn about the basics of telescopes here, and then check out NASA's page on building your own. The easiest one to build is a Galileoscope, which is simply a cardboard tube and some lenses. 

Build a Model of the Solar System

You've probably seen scale model solar systems here and there. They are usually built in parks or around museums, but you can do one on paper or in a diorama. You need to know the distances between solar system objects, and you'll have to do a little math to get them properly placed in your model.

Some table-top scale model solar systems contain marbles for the planets, a tennis ball for the Sun, and other smaller pebbles for asteroids and comets. Be creative! Once again, NASA has a great page that will help you figure out how to make yours

Make a Spacecraft Model

Build a model of a NASA space probe.

Many of the major probes and space-based observatories have patterns you can download and use to make scale model of something such as the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a page about building spacecraft scale models, as well. 

Explain the Lunar Phases

This one takes a little time to do. First, read up on the phenomenon of lunar phases here. Begin observing the Moon in the sky for a couple of months before your science fair. Note how and where and when it appears each night (or during the day), and when it doesn't appear. Keep a careful chart, and draw its shape.  If you have the materials, you can construct a 3D model of it using small balls and a light source to show how the Sun illuminates the Sun and Earth throughout the month. 

Discuss global Warming

This is a very important topic right now, with people from around the world and from many political and religious groups admitting that we have had an effect on our climate. It will take you a little time to study up on the science, but it's well worth it. Look into the facts that help scientists understand our atmosphere and what happens to it over time. In particular, note the strong data that show how humans are changing our planet's envelope of life-giving gases.

Your project can be as simple as a report on the science, or as complex as a model of our atmosphere and the greenhouse gases that are causing this warm-up to occur.

Another idea is to chart the weather satellites that countries around the world are using to study the effects of global warming, and how they measure our planet's temperature. 

Renewable Energy

For many years, NASA and other space agencies have been using solar panels to power their satellites and the International Space Station. Here on Earth, people use solar power for everything from household electricity to powering their watches and other electronics. A science fair project on solar power can explain how the Sun generates heat and light, which we use for solar power, and how much it does generate. You can also demonstrate creating electricity from solar power.

Solar cells are available nearly everywhere, so be creative in your project! 

Find Bits of Space

Collect micrometeorites. These are tiny bits of asteroid that drift to Earth's surface... and you CAN collect them! Read more here about how they form and where you can find them. Essentially, they are bits of space dust that drift through our atmosphere and land on the surface of the planet. 

You may be walking right by these tiny motes of space dust and not know it. So, to find them, look for areas where they might end up.  Rain and snow can wash them off of roofs, and they can flow down the drainpipes and storm gutters. You might try looking in the piles of dirt and sand at the bottom of a rain spout.  Collect a bit of that material, and take out the obvious things that aren't micrometeorites, such as large rocks, leaves, and other debris. Spread the rest out on a piece of paper. Next, place a magnet underneath the paper. Tilt the paper and you'll notice that most of the material slides off. What doesn't slide off is attracted by the magnetic and stays there. Next, check out what's left over with a magnifying glass or put it under the lens of a microscope. If the bits of material that are there are rounded, possibly even with pits on them, they could be micrometeorites! 

These are just a few of many ideas that involve space, exploration, and astronomy in a fascinating science fair project. Good luck and have fun! 

Edited and updated by Carolyn Collins Petersen