Year 2 Science

Astronomy: Our Solar System

view of earth from the moon

In What Your Year 2 Child Needs to Know you will meet two astronauts who are two of the many scientists who have flown in powerful rockets to outer space. Helen Sharman was the first British person in outer space, and Buzz Aldrin was one of the first people to walk on the moon. Far out in space, astronauts can look back and use cameras to take pictures of the Earth. From space, our planet looks like a round ball.

Astronauts are scientists who help us learn more about the solar system. Our solar system contains one star and nine planets. The sun may look like a big bright, yellow ball. But did you know that the sun is a star? It's like many other stars that you see shining in the sky on a clear night. What makes the sun different from those other stars? The big difference is that the sun is closer to us than any other star. If you could get in a rocket ship and travel far, far out in space, you would see that the sun has planets going around it.

Our Earth is only one of those planets. There are eight others: some are closer than we are to the sun, some are farther away. Some are bigger than the Earth, some are smaller. Each planet goes around the sun on its own special path, called an orbit. The sun and the planets that go around it are part of what we call the solar system.

Let's take an imaginary journey into outer space. We'll start near the sun, at the centre of our solar system, and spiral out from there. This really is an imaginary ride, because the sun is so hot you could never fly close to it. The sun is not a solid planet like the Earth. The sun is a huge ball of superhot burning gases. If a rocket really approached the sun, it would melt long before it could land.

As you fly away from the sun, you come to the planet Mercury. Mercury is a small planet, and it's very hot because it's the closest planet to the sun. Next you come to Venus, the second planet from the sun. After that, you see the third planet from the sun, which looks very familiar! It's Earth, your home planet. Earth is 93 million miles from the sun. That sounds far, but six more planets are even farther away. The fourth planet out from the sun is Mars. Some people nickname Mars 'the red planet' because when you are lucky enough to see it in the night-time sky, it seems to have an orangey, red colour. Next comes Jupiter, the fifth planet from the sun. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. There's something unusual about Saturn, the sixth planet from the sun. Saturn is surrounded by beautiful rings. The next two planets, Uranus and Neptune, are very large compared to Earth. The ninth and last planet, farthest from the sun, is Pluto, the smallest planet in our solar system. Some people call Pluto a dwarf planet because it is so small. Pluto is a super frozen planet, since it's so far from the sun. How far? Three billion miles away - a distance so huge it's hard to imagine!

This activity is adapted from pages 319 -321 of What Your Year 2 Child Needs to Know, which can be purchased here.

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