Astronomy is a science that asks fundamental questions about the very fundament of things, the universe. How big and how far away are the planets and stars? How did they form and when? How do they move and why? Finding answers to those questions has been the highest adventure of the human mind, and yet the questions, in essence, are those of any child looking into the sky. Sizing Up the Universe is a modeling exercise in which relationships in space are brought down to a scale of object common to student life (a basketball for example). The interactive utilizes a Google Maps overlay to shrink the vast expanses of space into understandable distances. The experience is based on educational materials created by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in cooperation with NASA, and is accompanied by a complete classroom-based lesson plan that expands the interactive into a full class exercise.
The interactive has just been rebuilt to work on tablets and was also recently re-published by BrainPOP, one of the leading educational sites for kids.