Tim Peake at York University

Inspired by the solar system trail on the York to Selby cycle route, Astrosoc members Mathew, Thom and Adam wanted to create a scale model of the solar system across the University of York Campus. In early 2016 they were awarded funding from Yufund to make this a reality.

Bringing together expertise from the mechanical workshops on site at the University, and a group of professional prop designers, the 8 planets (and dwarf planet Pluto) were created.

The planets themselves were each individually hand sculpted in clay before being cast in a fibreglass resin and painted. This work was performed by North Yorkshire Props Dept (NYPD) who are based in Scarborough.

Crucial to the success of this project was the crowd funding project that was also run to raise funds. AstroSoc would like to specifically thank the University of York Chemistry Department for their help in funding the project.


The Solar System model stretches across both campuses, starting at the Astrocampus on Heslington West and ending with the dwarf planet Pluto at Constantine college on Heslington East.

Use the detailed campus map below to find the nine planet locations. Click here for a larger version.


The walk forms a scale model of the solar system with each of the planets represented.


The Making of the Model

After the initial funding had been secured, construction of the planets and plinths could begin. Several designs of plinths were considered, with the concept sketch on the left being chosen. The plinths were built in the mechanical workshops in the Chemistry and Biology departments.

The planets were made in several stages. Firstly, a 40cm blank sphere was created. This was then covered in clay and sculpted to the shape of the desired planet. A cast of this was then taken which was used to create the final planet. When the cast had been taken, the next planet could be sculpted in the clay. The finished cast planets were then spray painted and airbrushed to add the final details. Groundwork started in late September and all the planets were all installed on the 4th November 2016. This coincided perfectly with astronaut Tim Peake’s visit to the University for the Principia Schools Conference on 5th November.


We are the University of York Astronomy Society. We are a general interest society open to everyone, whether you're an expert in astronomy, or have never even seen a telescope before. We hold regular observing sessions at Department of Physics' Astrocampus. We regularly undertake large projects, such as in 2014 when we launched our mascot Astroduck to the edge of space in a weather balloon, along with a GoPro camera to record his maiden voyage.
More recently we have built a scale model of the solar system across the University of York campuses. We also frequently run various social events, including pub crawls, film nights and meals out. Events such as these are often very casual, but will still have an astronomy-related spin on them. For example, our famous quiz nights feature both astronomy-related and general knowledge rounds.


​If you are interested in learning more about the University of York Astronomy Society, or would like to consider joining, you can email us at astronomy@yusu.org or complete the contact form. UoY students can join the society on the YUSU website If you want to see what we're up to, like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. In fact, why not add us and our resident astronaut on Facebook? You can also see what Astroduck is up to between missions by following him on Twitter, or Instagram.