Solar System Science Fair Project Ideas

Pacific Islander boy making planet model in classroom
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Do you have a science fair project in your future? If so, consider focusing on the solar system. Outer space is rich with mysteries and scientific questions to explore, from the phases of the moon to the existence of space dust (micrometeorites). Start with this list of solar system science fair projects.

Build a Working Sundial

The ancients used sundials to tell time using the position of the Sun in the sky. You can build your own sundial with two simple materials: a flat surface (e.g. paper, cardboard) and a thin object that can stand up (e.g. a popsicle stick or straw). Once your sundial is functional, test it for accuracy a few times per day by comparing the sundial's reading to your watch or clock.

Make Your Own Telescope

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

Build a Model of the Solar System

You can make a scale-model solar system out of paper or in a diorama. First, find out the distances between solar system objects, then do some math to get the distances to scale within your own model. Some tabletop scale-model solar systems contain marbles for the planets, a tennis ball for the Sun, and other smaller pebbles for asteroids and comets.

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, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Track the Lunar Phases

First, read about the phenomenon of lunar phases here. Then, for a few months, observe the Moon in the sky each night, recording how, where, and when it appears. Record the information in a chart and include a drawing of the moon's shape each day. If you have the materials, you can construct a 3D model of the sun using small balls and a light source to show how the Sun illuminates the Moon and Earth throughout the month. 

Study 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. For a science fair project on solar power, study how the Sun generates light and heat and how we convert that light and heat into usable solar power.

Collect Bits of Space

Micrometeorites are tiny bits of asteroid that drift through our atmosphere and land on the surface of the Earth. You can collect them by looking in places they're likely to end up. For example, rain and snow can wash them off of roofs, and they can flow down the drainpipes and storm gutters. You might also try looking in the piles of dirt and sand at the bottom of a rain spout. Collect that material, remove anything that obviously is not a micrometeorite (e.g. large rocks and leaves), and spread out the remaining material on a piece of paper. Place a magnet underneath the paper and tilt it. Most of the material will slide right off; anything that does not slide off is magnetic. Study the remaining magnetic material under a magnifying glass or microscope. Micrometeorites will appear rounded and may have pits.

Edited and updated by Carolyn Collins Petersen