Some students use a geocentric model of the solar system i.e. the Earth at the centre

Earth and Space


This can be taken further by saying that then Sun and Moon move towards and away from the Earth or by saying that the Sun and Moon orbit around the Earth together. 

Diagnostic Resources

The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.

For more information, see the University of York BEST website.

Resources to address this

  • Acting out day and night  (5-11)

    Ref - SPT HS03 TA06

    Accounting for day and night is quite complex, and we suggest that the very best way for children to develop a helpful understand this is to act out a model of the process.

    They also learn about the explanation of the solar system.

    View Resource
  • The solar system: what do we know?   (11-14)

    Ref - SPT ES03 PN01

    This activity looks at the model of the solar system, as accepted now.

    View Resource
  • Does the Earth move? photographing the night sky  (11-16)

    Ref - Practical physics / Astronomy/ Observational astronomy/ 
    Does the Earth move? Photographing the night sky

    The photograph will show arcs of a circle as the stars in the northern hemisphere appear to revolve around the Pole Star.   It is then necessary to explore possible explanations.

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Trumper, R., () A cross-age study of junior high school students' conceptions of basic astronomy concepts, International Journal of Science Education, 23 (11)


    Review sheet

  • Pine, K., Messer, D. & John, S.K., () Children's Misconceptions in Primary Science: A Survey of teachers' views, Research in Science & Technological Education, 19 (1)


    Review sheet

  • Plummer, D. J., Zahm, M. V. & Rice, R., () Inquiry and Astronomy: Preservice Teachers’ Investigations of Celestial Motion, Journal of Science Teacher Education.

    Review sheet

  • Hsu, Y.S., () Learning About Seasons in a Technologically Enhanced Environment: The Impact of Teacher-Guided and Student-Centered Instructional Approaches on the Process of Students’ Conceptual Change, Wiley InterScience.

    Review sheet

  • Jones, L. B., Lynch, P. P. & Reesink, C., () Children's conceptions of the earth, sun and moon, International Journal of Science Education,

    Review sheet

  • Pena, M. and Gil Quilez, M. J., () The importance of images in astronomy education, International Journal of Science Education, 23 (11)


    Review sheet

  • Chiras, A. and Valenides, N., () Day/Night Cycle: Mental models of Primary School Children, Science Education International, 19 (1)


    Review sheet

  • Osborne, J., Wadsworth, P., Black, P. and Meadows, J., () The earth in space: Primary space project research report, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

    Review sheet

  • Prather, E.E., Slater, F.T., Offerdahl, G.E., () Hints of a Fundamental Misconception in Cosmology, The Astronomy Education, 1 (2)


    Review sheet

  • Trundle, K.C., Atwood, R.K. and Christopher, J. E., () Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Conceptions of Moon Phases before and after Instruction, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39 (7)


    Review sheet

  • Slater, V.E., Morris, E. J. & McKinnon, D., () Astronomy alternative conceptions in preadolescent students in Western Australia, International Journal of Science Education, 40 (17)


    Review sheet

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