On a dry lake bed in Nevada, the United States, a group of friends built a scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits. They first put a Sun with a diameter of 1.5 meters (5 feet) in the center, and then draw the planets’ orbits accordingly.
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 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 a 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 take Earth’s size only as small as a marble – in that scale, they put a 1.5 meter (5 feet) (in diameter) Sun in the center, and draw the planets around it with the scale. The result is stunning (please watch the video above).
Scale Model of the Solar System on desert: Planetary distances scaled
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 distance between the Earth and the Moon is much bigger than most people think.
- 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
- Their scale is roughly 1 meters to 850,000 km. Proxima Centauri is about 40 trillion km away. At their model’s scale, then, Proxima Centauri would be at least 47,000 km from the sun. The earth is about 40,000 km around, the largest distance you could measure on the Earth’s surface, starting from the Black Rock Desert, literally fater circumnavigating around the world and coming to the same place again, would still be only about two-fifths of the distance needed to represent Proxima Centauri at this scale. Astronomical distances are pretty much unimaginable. And Proxima Centauri is about 0.15 times the diameter of our Sun. In this scale, the sun is about 1.5 meters across. So a model of Proxima would be about 23 cm across, roughly the size of a soccer ball.
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
As we got farther and farther away, the Earth diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful marble you can imagine… seeing this has to change a man.James Irwin, Apollo 15