The Solar System (to scale)

This is a great solar system demonstration!

You start your model solar system with a blue marble with patterns vaguely reminiscent of oceans and continents. That’s your earth. The pea-sized moon is a couple of feet away. Build it in the Black Rock desert in Nevada, where you have plenty of room. It will be seven miles in diameter.

Your sun, about 616 feet from your earth, will be about 5 feet across. The sun’s diameter is a hundred times that of our planet.

Mighty Jupiter, roughly the size of a soccer ball, is 3,326 feet out from your sun, or roughly 0.6 miles. Saturn, with its glorious rings, is a little smaller and over a mile out. Neptune, called “the edge of the solar system,” is 3 1/2 miles out.

If you reduced your model solar system to fit on a large sheet of paper, the biggest planets would be invisible except under a microscope. It’s that huge.

When the real sun rises and finds you standing on your earth’s orbit, your 5-foot model sun in the distance appears the same size as the real sun 93 million miles away. By this, you know the orbits of your model solar system are correct.

Neptune, of course, is not really “the edge of the solar system.” It just happens to be the last full-fledged planet. If you included Pluto, which we used to call a planet, it would be about four miles from your sun, making your model solar system eight miles across.

If you also included the Oort cloud, which contains millions of comets and dwarf planets — maybe billions — stretching half-way to the nearest star, your model would reach half-way around the world in all directions and just about meet on the opposite side. It would almost cover the entire surface of the real earth.

I agree, “It’s staggering!”


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