Homeschool Space Unit Study: Saturn Science Experiment

Our homeschool Space Unit Study is our newest project! If your kids are interested in the solar system or astronomy, you will LOVE what we have been working on!

We are working our way through the solar system with these fun, hands-on space themed science experiments! It's the perfect unit study because space is an exciting topic for everyone around here...I might even confess to enjoying Star Trek, lol! 

Anyway, this experiment shows how chunks of rocks and ice make the apparent rings we see on Saturn. It uses supplies you are sure to have and is super easy. Don't let that deceive you, though...this one is really addictive...we all wanted to do it over and over and over...! Also, it's downright dangerous to experiment too much with the gasses that cover Saturn!

First, a few Saturn Fast Facts! Saturn...

* is the 6th planet from the sun.
* is the 2nd largest planet in our solar system.
* takes 29 Earth-years to go around the sun.
* takes less than 11 Earth hours for one day.
* does not have a solid ground to stand on.
* has winds faster than 1100 miles per hour.

Saturn Science Experiment: 


* string or yarn
* ball or other object that can be tied to the string.
Supplies Sidenote: We did this twice. Once we used a ball tied to the end of yarn. The other time we used a green plastic piece from a marble run that someone (ahem!) left out. Both worked wonderfully! 

How To:

1- Tie the ball or toy to the end of the string or yarn.

2- Hold the other end of the string and swing the ball in a circle around you. Experiment with the length of string, size and mass of ball, and rotating the orbit!

You represent Saturn and the ball or toy represents a piece of rock or ice that is orbiting Saturn. 

When I was younger, we thought that the rings were solid and smooth you could ice-skate on them! Now we know that the rings are NOT continuous! They are, in fact, made from many, many small pieces of rock and ice that are quickly orbiting Saturn. From a distance, when an object is moving quickly, that motion blurs and looks like a continuous line. It's like a giant optical illusion! It's easy to see this with a ball and string! It's not so easy to photograph, but here are a few attempts:

In the picture above you can see the green blur arching above and to the left of her hand. It's made by the following green toy on a black cord:

In the picture below you can see a purple ball on the end of a yellow piece of yarn. The yarn is shorter, so the ball is closer to his hand. The blur in the picture is also shorter since the yarn is shorter.

Ask your kids how else you could demonstrate, model, or show how Saturn's "rings" work!

And just for fun, here is an artist's rendition of the spacecraft Cassini taking pictures of Saturn and its rings in 2004:

Be sure to check out the other experiments I have in the Homeschool Space Science Unit Study! I hope you have a great time with them!

And if you're looking for more homeschool unit studies, be sure to check out our growing collection here!

Happy Educating,
Carla & the kids who don't sit still!