Electricity and Magnetism

Static UFO

Enrichment Activity for 5-11 11-14

What you need

  • Very thin strands of tinsel, about 15cm long
  • Balloon


  1. Tie six strands of tinsel together with a knot at each end and cut any loose ends off close to the knots
  2. Rub the inflated balloon against your hair or jumper and hold the tinsel above the balloon by one of the knots. Drop the tinsel

Results and Explanation

The tinsel will touch the balloon, be repelled and start floating! Use the balloon to direct where it goes. If your UFO won’t fly, try again with thinner tinsel or on a very dry day.

Rubbing the balloon makes it negatively charged and the tinsel is attracted to it. When the tinsel hits the balloon, it picks up some of the negative charge and is repelled away.

These experiments have not been specifically safety tested for home use but we believe them to be safe if the instructions are followed. Adult supervision or direction is recommended as appropriate. All experiments are carried out at your own risk.

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is used in analyses relating to Ionisation
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