Which solar system model is best?

For as long as humans could look up at the night sky, we’ve been fascinated with the stars. How far away are they? Where did they come from? What secrets do they hide? These might be questions that will go unanswered for decades or even centuries, but we do know a few things about our immediate celestial neighborhood.

Including Earth, the planets that orbit our sun are referred to as the solar system. The term solar refers to our sun, and scientists know of thousands of systems like ours, though they might not all have a habitable planet. While the solar system is but a blip on that universal map, scientists have had a long time to figure out its planets’ masses, how far those planets are from Earth and how often the planets orbit the sun. And because of that, we can accurately plot the relation of all the objects on a much smaller scale.

A solar system model is the most effective way to do this, and it is also a neat learning method. The 4M DIY Solar System Planetarium is an excellent choice, as it glows in the dark.

What to know before you buy a solar system model

Decide on the model’s appearance

Several solar system models are available, all with different ways of representing the planets. The classic model has them on different rods that can rotate around the sun in the center. It’s the model most will recognize from science class. However, as technology gets better, solar models are also updated to be more enticing. Some are embedded in crystal balls that float in liquid. Taking a more technological approach, several computer programs accurately model the system, and you can even “travel” in them between the planets. 

Education vs. novelty

Do you want to use the model as an educational tool or as decoration in your home or child’s room? Glow-in-the-dark planetary models are an excellent way to educate while providing an exciting nightlight. Decoration models are more complex and can cost more than educational pieces. 

Electronic vs. static

Since the solar system is constantly on the move, it will only be accurate if all the pieces move. Basic models require you to move each planet manually to simulate an orbit, but some electronic models can do that for you. Don’t expect the planets to move at their real pace, though, as that will be incredibly boring. Instead, electronic models orbit the sun several thousand times faster, as it gives you a better representation of how the planets move in relation to other bodies.

What to look for in a quality solar system model

Accuracy in the planets

You can forgive a solar system model if the distances between the planets aren’t entirely accurate or if the planets aren’t to scale. However, other accuracy factors set a good-quality model apart from a mediocre one. First, the planets must be labeled correctly and placed inside the model in the right order. Then, all the objects in the model must have approximately the right color. 

Learning through discovery

While you can buy a solar system model already built, that won’t be fun. Instead, look for a solar system model that can be put together with parents, grandparents or other caregivers. A good-quality solar model always attempts to promote learning through self-discovery.

Added information on the planets

Putting it together for the first time is a great experience. Still, a good-quality solar system model includes additional information on the solar system, the planets and outer space. In addition, many of the STEM kits include educational booklets or posters so children can get a scale for how massive the solar system is. 

How much you can expect to spend on a solar system model

The average price of a solar system model largely depends on its complexity and function. A basic model with few details can retail for $15-$20, while a mechanical model with moving pieces can sell for $50-$60.

Solar system model FAQ

Do you get models of the moon?

A. Yes, but you won’t often find the moon included in solar system models, even though it is technically part of it. So instead of solar models, these are called lunar models.

Is Pluto included in solar system models?

A. That is a tricky question, as it depends on when the model was made. For example, Pluto was originally included as a proper planet in the solar system. Still, scientists decided in 2006 that it was only a dwarf planet and didn’t meet the criteria required to be named the ninth planet.

What’s the best solar system model to buy?

Top solar system model

4M DIY Solar System Planetarium

4M DIY Solar System Planetarium

What you need to know: This model consists of several pieces that come together on a plastic stand. 

What you’ll love: It’s an excellent learning tool for kids because they get to color each planet with the included glow paint and stencils. In addition, it comes with a wall chart and a set of Kidz Quiz questions.

What you should consider: It is 8 inches long and doesn’t include Pluto. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top solar system model for the money

Thames & Kosmos Orbiting Solar System

Thames & Kosmos Orbiting Solar System

What you need to know: In this model, all the planets are connected to the sun, which houses a complex gear system to simulate their orbits.

What you’ll love: Kids can learn while they assemble this model system. There is no need for paint or glue because the pieces snap together and use paper inserts for identification. 

What you should consider: The planetary gear that makes the planets rotate can be tricky to set up. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

GP Toys 3-In-1 Build and Paint Solar System

GP Toys 3-In-1 Build and Paint Solar System

What you need to know: This 3D model sits on a 12-inch base with grooves for each planet to manually orbit the sun.

What you’ll love: It comes with glow-in-the-dark paint, paintbrushes and snap-out pieces to put the planets together. Additionally, it includes stickers of all the planets, and the base is pre-painted.

What you should consider: It is suitable for ages 4 and older.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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