Recently, I've been on the lookout for new models and props related to astronomy that can be used in some of our school programmes, like are planetarium shows and large group demonstrations. During a search on the internet I came across a large scale inflatable solar system.
At first it looked like it was only available on overseas websites like Amazon but later I found a local supplier here in Singapore, The Learning Store/Expenovate.
The second set will be ideal for my upcoming talk on "the planets" for the NLB, which I'll be conducting as apart of their astronomy month at Jurong East Library on Saturday 2nd June.
Back at Science Centre, the solar systems attracted quite alot of attention from my fellow scobbers and colleagues who were in the office at the time. Kin Guan and myself set about inflating the planets inside our cubicle area using the supplied footpump, which made a loud high pitch sound every time we stepped on it. One of our colleagues found this particularly disturbing, as it is similar to the sound of scratching a blackboard with your fingernails (does anyone still use blackboards?), something known to send shivers down your spine, although I think my colleague used the phrase "makes me resonate" :/
We inflated the rest of the planets in the walkway outside and once finished brought them back into the office where several others contributed other ways of using them, like attempting to spin each planet on one finger.
The inflatable solar system is a nice set for visual demonstrations and explaining the solar system layout, however the sizes are not to scale, although the gas planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) are quite close.
Of course the Sun is so big its hard to represent its true size. Sometimes I will still use marbles and Styrofoam balls to represent the size of the rocky planets like Earth, Mars, Venus and Mercury, which are incredibly small compared to the gas giants.
I guess its hard to find a really accurate solar system model because of the large variation in size, not to mention the huge distances between the planets.
As often happens when shopping, you sometimes come back with more than you intended to buy. Likewise, whilst at the learning store I also picked up these colourful posters which I thought would be nice to display inside the observatory: