Scaling Galileo's Solar System - Locating the Globes


In this module, students plot the position of the model planets on a campus map, after calculating their positions from the scaled orbits and periods and converting from polar coordinates to Cartesian coordinates. Students recreate spreadsheets shown in the Powerpoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of the overall question. This module is the fourth in a series of four on the Galilean Solar System.

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Learning Goals

  • Determine the positions of the planets in a model solar system at times after the model is started.
  • Determine the distances between the planets and how those distances change with time.

Context for Use

This module was designed to be used in an undergraduate mathematical geology class where students are asked to look at geological questions mathematically and may spend more time on the math than on the geology.

Description and Teaching Materials

This module is one of several developed by Dr. Vacher. The module presentation can be found at

The Powerpoint file is considered to be the student version. There is also an instructor's version that has active spreadsheets in it. There are instructions for requesting this version on the website.

Teaching Notes and Tips

These modules were developed as essentially self-paced, take-home lab assignments. Students are supposed to work through the modules, slide by slide, building their own worksheets as they go along, taking note of instructions and prompts, hints, and queries.

Students must have access to computers equipped with a spreadsheet program such as Excel.


The easiest way to test student work on this module is to ask students to hand in a copy of their worksheets starting with a different set of input data. The module also ends with homework assignment questions.

References and Resources