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Changes in The Solar System

In this worksheet, students will explore the fact that, for many hundreds of years, scientists have looked at the stars to try to find our place in the solar system and to understand the movement of the stars, but how has our ideas about the solar system changed over the years?

'Changes in The Solar System' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 3

Curriculum topic:   Extend Your Learning

Curriculum subtopic:   Interesting Topics from the Old Curriculum

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

Our knowledge of the Solar System has been developed over thousands of years. Below is an outline of the civilisations and scientists that have been involved in the development of our knowledge of the modern day Solar System:

 

Timeline 4000 BC

Ancient civilisations studied the movement of the Sun, Moon and the stars and used them to measure time The Egyptians developed the 365-day calendar as a result of monitoring the stars.

 

Timeline 400 BC

Aristotle - a very famous Greek philosopher - realised the Earth was a sphere, but he believed that the Earth was at the center of the Universe and all the planets and stars orbited around the Earth. This is known as the geocentric model.

 

A statue of the Greek philosopher Aristotle


Timeline 1543

A Polish scientist called Copernicus, realised that it was the Sun at the center if the Solar System and not the Earth which is known as a heliocentric model. His theories were controversial at the time and church leaders wouldn't accept them.

 

Nicolaus Copernicus heliocentric model of the solar system

Timeline 1609

In 1609, telescopes became available and ideas began to change. Kepler, a German astronomer, adapted Copernicus's model by changing the circular orbits of the planets to elliptical (oval) orbits. 

 

The Solar System showing the elliptical orbits of the planets around the Sun. 

 

This model led to a greater understanding of the speed at which planets orbit. In 2009, NASA launched a space ship named after Kepler which discovered dozens of Earth-sized planets until it stopped functioning in August 2013.  

There have been other famous astronomers, including Hubble, who have helped us understand the Solar System. Scientists to the present day are still improving and adapting the model, as more information about the Solar System is being gathered.

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