We evolved here on Earth, and for thousands of years, we just thought the Earth is also the universe, or at least the most important and the biggest part of it. Our brains have been adapted to live on Earth and the basic survival needs. So we can deal with the moderately sized objects which have moderate velocity, we can understand the small numbers like 1, 2, 50, we can conceptualize the small distances like two kilometers or the distance from our “cave” to the nearest river. But when the numbers and distances get bigger, I mean much bigger, like the distance from Earth to the Sun, it becomes incredibly difficult to conceptualize.
Previously I posted an article titled “If The Moon Were Only 1 Pixel – A Tediously Accurate Map Of The Solar System“. Since the human brain cannot deal with the really large numbers, it is an amazing way to understand how big actually our Solar System is.
Now, on a dry lake bed in Nevada, the United States, a group of friends built the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits: a true illustration of our place in the universe.
They constructed the model by drawing circles in the desert: they put a 1.5 meter (in diameter) Sun in the center, and draw the planets around it with the scale. The result is stunning (please watch the video below).
If you put a 1.5 meter Sun in the center (the actual diameter of the Sun is 1,392,684 km / 865,373.72 mi):
- The Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun would be 68 meters (224 feet) away.
- The distance between Venus and the Sun would be 120 meters (447 feet).
- The Earth would be a small marble, with a distance of 176 meters (579 feet).
- Mars (we put a few robots on it) would be 269 meters (881 feet) from the Sun.
- The distances between the outer planets and the Sun are incredible. Jupiter: 0.92 km (0.57 mi), Saturn: 1.7 km (1.1 mi), Uranus: 3.4 km (2.1 mi), Neptune: 5.6 km (3.5 mi).
Now multiply these distances with almost a billion (still a very large number to conceptualize), you’ll get the real size model of our Solar System.
Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy