Sanity Savers: Nebula in a Jar

Sponsored by: National Grid

Written by: Dan Walsh
STEM Educator

While studying space one of my favorite things to study are Nebulae. Nebulae are almost like clouds in space that are made up of different gases and space dust. Nebulae take up trillions and trillions of miles in space, but the gases are spread out and slowly gather together over time. Here are just a few nebulae to look at before we start our project. What colors do you see? Do you see any shapes in the clouds? Today we are going to be making our own nebulae!


Glass of water
Cotton balls
Food coloring
Jar with a lid


1.) Stretch out a few cotton balls. They will be split up into a few layers in our jar.
2.) Grab your clear container, fill it up with just a little water. Then add your food color of choice. Think back to the pictures of nebulae we just saw. What colors did you see? Stir in the food coloring.
3.) Place some of the cotton balls in the water. Keep putting them in the container until they cover the bottom, and a little white still shows.     
4.) Pour in glitter or beads on top of the cotton balls.

3.) Pour a little more water into the container and add another drop or two of food coloring. You can change colors in between layers! Place more cotton balls on top until the white still shows. Then sprinkle glitter or beads on top of that layer. 
4.) Repeat this process until your jar is almost full, then add a little more water. Place one or two drops of food coloring on top, but don’t stir it! The food coloring will work its way down and create a cool effect! Place the cap on the container and marvel at the nebula you just created!  

Fast facts about Nebulae:

How big are nebulae?
Nebulae take up millions of miles or trillions of light years in space, but the gases are spread out and slowly gather together over time.
The closest nebula to earth is the Helix Nebula, which is 700 light years away. If you flew at the speed of light, it would take you at least 700 years to travel to it.   


Gas– One of the three forms of matter; liquid, solid, and gas. Gas is an air like substance that can float around freely.
Stars– Huge balls of different gases. The closest star to earth is the Sun!
Constellation– A group of visible stars that create a pattern we see on Earth.
Astronomer– A person who studies space, stars, planets, and even nebulae!

Check out our other Sanity Savers posts here!  

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