ASTR101 – The Solar System to Scale

The Solar System

Back many many years ago, when I was in college in the 80’s, I took an astronomy class. It fulfilled my science requirement with a lab. And since I had no interest in the sciences (I had OD’s on them in high school with Advanced Chem and Advanced Bio) this would do.

This morning, I saw a post on Facebook that reminded me of one of the more educational labs we did. The “experiment” was to make a scale model of the solar system. And the process of creating it ( in our short 3-hour lab) was much less cool than the video I am about to share with everyone, it was just as educational.

Probably one of the more mind bending parts of understanding the Universe is scale. We simply do not have any frame of reference here on earth to feel it.

So we started at one end of the longest hallway at San Diego State University. I believe it was 2 buildings that had been Frankensteined together making one massively long hallway. There, we took a sheet of paper and traced a circle the size of a quarter – and taped the paper to the wall.

Then we were given measurements – and I forget whether they made us use tape measures or just counting out footsteps. A dot some 30 steps down the hallway was Mercury. Another dot some 50 or more steps further was Venus. As I recall, the Hallway did not allow us to get past Jupiter.

The question asked at each planet was to look at the papers we had taped up before and think about how much we could actually see of the dots we put on the paper.

The Video

For the purposes of my blog, I cannot share the video that I saw this morning. But I can send you to the site to see it yourself. You understand the whole plagiarism thing. But I thought it was so cool, that I wanted to talk about it and share it.

Every solar system model you’ve seen is wrong

So these filmmakers mapped out the true scale of the planets’ orbits in the sand.

The video is educational, beautiful and awe-inspiring. It shows off our planet’s place in the solar system, and it offers perspective on just how small Earth is in the grand scheme of things. The entire film is captivating, but perhaps the most poignant moment is at sunrise, when the real sun matches the model’s sun, showing that the representation is accurate.

So please go watch and enjoy!