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Turn Planets Into Magnets

Make a Solar System For Your Fridge Using These Images And Some Other Materials



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thin cardboard (shirt cardboard, a cereal box, or manila file folder)

rubber cement or glue stick (white glue tends to pucker newsprint)

a roll of flexible, trim-to-length, adhesive-backed magnets (cost: about $2 at hardware stores)

READ all the directions before you begin, as there are three versions.

Version 1: Roughly cut out the planets on Page 8. Glue the rough cutouts to thin cardboard using a glue stick or rubber cement. (Try not to get any rubber cement on the front of the planets, as it will pull off some of the ink.) Press down on the planet cutout with a clean piece of paper to avoid rubbing off the ink.

Wait for the rubber cement to dry. Then, using sharp scissors, carefully cut out the planets, using the dotted lines as guides. Snip strips of magnet to length, and apply them to the backs of the planets. Put them on the refrigerator.

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Version 2: Roughly cut out the planets on Page 8, as in Version 1. Laminate the cutouts. (Many office-supply stores and copy centers have laminators, and can laminate whatever will fit on a large sheet for less than $2.)

Carefully cut out the laminated planets, following the dotted lines. Attach the magnets. The stiff laminate eliminates the need for cardboard backing.

Version 3: Download the planet images from the Monitor's Web site and make color printouts of your own! Obviously, you need access to the Internet and a color printer to do this. The planets' colors will be brighter on white printer paper than on newsprint, and you can make more of them. Proceed with the magnets, using Version 1 or 2.

We recommend laminating the magnets if you can.

We've put the planets on their own pages on the Monitor's Web site. Here's the address:

To download the image on a Macintosh computer, put your cursor over the image and hold down the mouse button. A dialogue box will appear. You can then save the image on your computer and print it out.

PC users should put the cursor on the image and click the right-hand button (right click) to make the dialogue box appear.


Have you ever used the word "astronomical" to describe something big? Such as "Ticket prices for the Super Bowl are astronomical!" The distances between the planets in our solar system are truly astronomical.

Here's how to get an idea of how far apart the planets are. To do this, imagine using the small versions of the inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars) and Pluto printed near the larger versions on Page 8. We made large versions of the smallest planets so you could see them better and make refrigerator magnets out of them more easily.

If Earth were as big as the small version (5/16ths of an inch), the sun would be 2 feet, 10 inches in diameter. Let's suppose you made an image of the sun that big and put it on your refrigerator. Where would the planets be?

Mercury would be 118 feet away

Venus: 220 feet

Earth: 305 feet

Mars: 466 feet

Jupiter: 1,590 feet (almost 1/3 mile)

Saturn: 2,920 feet (more than 1/2 mile)

Uranus: 5,860 feet (1-1/10 miles)

Neptune: 9,170 feet (1-3/4 miles)

Pluto: 12,060 feet (2-1/4 miles)

How far away would the nearest star be? The nearest star, of course, is the sun. But the closest star besides our sun is Proxima Centauri. It is more than 4 light-years away.

A light-year is how far a beam of light travels in a year. To give you an idea of how many miles are in a light year, remember that Earth is 93 million miles from the sun. It takes a little more than 8 minutes for sunlight to reach us on Earth.

So if our planet was only 5/16ths of an inch in diameter, then Proxima Centauri would be 146,400 miles away - two-thirds of the distance to the moon!

Now that's astronomical.


The granddaddy of space-related information sites. If it isn't here, chances are there's a link to it. A huge site with its own search engine.

Among the NASA links is a 'List of Planetary Information Sites' from the Lunar and Planetary Institute. It's an indexed list of Web sites.

The McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas provides up-to-date information on stargazing, including where to look for planets in the night sky.

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