Orbits
Earth and Space

Planetarium model

Practical Activity for 14-16 PRACTICAL PHYISCS

Demonstration

A home-made planetarium.

Apparatus and Materials

  • Round-bottomed flask, 2 litre
  • Lamp, 12 V 36 W
  • Aquadag (colloidal graphite in water)
  • Clamp stands, 2
  • Suitable support for flask (see diagram)

Health & Safety and Technical Notes

Care is needed to make sure the flask is not dropped. The flask surface will get very hot after a while.

Read our standard health & safety guidance


Improvise a planetarium using a two litre round-bottomed flask (preferably the type with a wide neck).

Support a 12 V, 36 W lamp at the centre of the flask. Coat the surface of the flask with Aquadag (colloidal graphite in water). Scratch holes in this surface to represent the pattern of some of the major constellations.

Procedure

  1. Switch the lamp on in a darkened room. Rotate the flask and the spots of light on the ceiling will rotate and display the simple daily motion.

Teaching Notes

  • It is recommended that a model of the Solar System (orrery) should not be shown at this stage unless the heliocentric world of the solar system (the work of Copernicus) has been discussed.
  • Where a visit to a planetarium can be arranged this can be a valuable part of the teaching, particularly if a special programme is arranged. There are many simple planetarium models which can be purchased from Science Museums and toy shops.

This experiment was safety-tested in April 2007

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