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HandWiki. Solar System Model. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/37654 (accessed on 16 April 2024).
HandWiki. Solar System Model. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/37654. Accessed April 16, 2024.
HandWiki. "Solar System Model" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/37654 (accessed April 16, 2024).
HandWiki. (2022, December 01). Solar System Model. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/37654
HandWiki. "Solar System Model." Encyclopedia. Web. 01 December, 2022.
Solar System Model
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Solar System models, especially mechanical models, called orreries, that illustrate the relative positions and motions of the planets and moons in the Solar System have been built for centuries. While they often showed relative sizes, these models were usually not built to scale. The enormous ratio of interplanetary distances to planetary diameters makes constructing a scale model of the Solar System a challenging task. As one example of the difficulty, the distance between the Earth and the Sun is almost 12,000 times the diameter of the Earth. If the smaller planets are to be easily visible to the naked eye, large outdoor spaces are generally necessary, as is some means for highlighting objects that might otherwise not be noticed from a distance. The Boston Museum of Science has placed bronze models of the planets in major public buildings, all on similar stands with interpretive labels. For example, the model of Jupiter is located in the cavernous South Station waiting area. The properly-scaled, basket-ball-sized model is 1.3 miles (2.14 km) from the model Sun which is located at the museum, graphically illustrating the immense empty space in the Solar System. The objects in such large models do not move. Traditional orreries often did move, and some used clockworks to display the relative speeds of objects accurately. These can be thought of as being correctly scaled in time, instead of distance.

scale model model models

1. Permanent True Scale Models

Many towns and institutions have built outdoor scale models of the Solar System. Here is a table comparing these models with the actual system.

Name Location Scale:
1 : …
Sun dia. Earth dia. Sun–Earth Sun–Pluto Description
Actual Solar System 1 1.392 Gm 12.76 Mm 149.6 Gm 5.914 Tm  
Sweden Solar System[1] Sweden 20,000,000 71 m 65 cm 7,600 m 300 km permanent; country-wide (begun 1998)
Solar System Drive[2] Coonabarabran, Australia 38,000,000 37 m 34 cm 4,100 m 205 km permanent; drivable (est. 1997)
Maine Solar System[3][4] University of Maine 93,000,000 15 m 13.7 cm 1,600 m 64 km permanent; drivable (est.2003)
Mont Megantic Dark Sky Reserve Great Solar System Parc national du Mont-Mégantic 100,000,000 14 m 12.4 cm 1,450 m 57 km permanent; drivable (est.2018)
Otago Central Interplanetary Cycle Trail[5][6][7] Otago Central Rail Trail 100,000,000 13.91 m 12 cm 1,496 m 59.06 km permanent; cyclable (est.2017)
Riverfront Museum Solar System[8][9] Peoria, Illinois 125,000,000 11 m 10.0 cm 1,200 m 47 km permanent; drivable (est. 1992?)
Vienna Solar System Vienna, Austria 163,764,706 8.5 m 7.78 cm 913 m 36 km under construction since 2018. Physical + Augmented Reality
Planet Lofoten Lofoten, Norway 200,000,000 7 m ? ? 30 km under construction
Planet Trek Dane County Madison, Wisconsin 200,000,000 7 m 6.6 cm 777 m 38.3 km permanent; fully accessible by foot and bike paths (est. 2009)
Sunspot Solar System Model Sunspot, New Mexico 250,000,000 5.6 m 5.1 cm 1.5 m 23.6 km permanent, drivable
Lethbridge Solar System Model Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada 254,000,000 5.5 m 5 cm 500 m 14.7 km (Neptune) permanent, drivable, walkable (est. 2022)
El Sistema Solar de la comarca de Ciudad Rodrigo Ciudad Rodrigo, Spain 290,000,000 4.8 m 4.4 cm 1.2 m 25 km permanent, Walk & Drive
If the Earth were a Ping-Pong ball Westminster, London 318,905,000 4.36 m 4 cm ? ? In construction; Walk & Drive (est. 2018) Centered around Deans Yard, Westminster
Light Speed Planet Walk Anchorage, Alaska 350,000,000 ? ? ? 16.6 km permanent; drivable (est. 2005)
Moab's Scale Model of the Solar System Moab, Utah 400,000,000 3.6 m ? ? 15.3 km permanent; Walk and Drive (est. 2007)
Community Solar System Trail Boston, Massachusetts 400,000,000 3.5 m 3.2 cm 380 m 15.3 km permanent; drivable (established in 1997, removed in 2015)
The Solar System to Scale Estremoz, Portugal 414,000,000 3.4 m 3.1 cm 361 m 14.3 km permanent; drivable; bikeable
Somerset Space Walk Bridgwater Canal, Somerset UK 530,000,000 2.5 m ? ? 11 km permanent; bikeable (est. 1997)
York’s Solar System model York, England 575,872,239 2.4 m 2.2 cm 260 m 10.3 km permanent; bikeable (est. 1999)
Traverse Bay Community Solar System Traverse City, Michigan 592,763,356 0.9 m ? 209 m 10.0 km permanent; bikeable (est. 2004)
Michigan Solar System Model Coleman, Michigan 608,000,000 2.3 m 2.1 cm 324 m 9.8 km permanent; bike trail Sun and Pls. Spheres (2017)
Solar System Opava, Czech Republic 627,000,000 2.2 m 2.0 cm 239 m 9.42 km permanent; bikeable; walkable; drivable (est. 2006)
Nine Views Zagreb, Croatia 680,000,000 2.0 m 1.9 cm 225 m 8.7 km permanent; bikeable (est. 2004)
Walk the Solar System Fort St. John, British Columbia, Canada 682,353,000 2.0 m 1.9 cm 219 m 8.6 km under construction
McCarthy Observatory New Milford, Connecticut 761,155,000 1.8 m 1.7 cm 195 m 7.1 km permanent; bikeable (est. 2009)
Planet Walk Glen Burnie, Maryland. 781,000,000 ? ? 191.5 m 7.56 km Walkable, bikeable (est. 2008). Part of the permanent Baltimore & Annapolis Trail.
Trilho do Sistema Solar Paredes de Coura, Portugal 831,000,000 1.675 m 1.533 cm 180 m 5.42 km (Neptune) permanent; walkable; bikeable (est. 2016)
Planetenpad Utrecht Utrecht, The Netherlands 1,000,000,000 1.3 m 1.3 cm 150 m 7.4 km (Neptune) Leads from Centre Utrecht to Rhijnauwen, on foot, on bike or on kayak
Model of the Solar System Helsinki, Finland 1,000,000,000 1.4 m 1.2 cm 149.6 m 6.1 km permanent; bikeable
Planetenmodell Hagen Hagen, Germany 1,000,000,000 1.4 m 1.3 cm 150 m 5.9 km permanent; bikeable (est. 1959)
Planetenweg Schwarzbach Kriftel, Germany 1,000,000,000 1.4 m 1.3 cm 150 m 5.9 km permanent; bikeable (est. 1998)
Uetliberg Planetenweg Zurich, Switzerland 1,000,000,000 1.4 m 1.3 cm 150 m 5.9 km permanent; bikeable
Planetenwanderweg Ehrenfriedersdorf, Germany 1,000,000,000 1.4 m 1.3 cm 150 m 5.9 km permanent; bikeable
Planetary Trail Hradec Králové, Czech Republic 1,000,000,000 1.4 m 1.3 cm 150 m 5.9 km permanent; bikeable (est. 2005)
Planetary Trail Prague, Czech Republic 1,000,000,000 1.4 m 1.3 cm 150 m 13 km (Sedna as discovered)
5.9 km (Pluto)
permanent; bike & walk; all objects above 1000km; (est. 13.5.2018)
Melbourne Solar System[10][11] Melbourne, Australia 1,000,000,000 1.4 m 1.3 cm 150 m 5.9 km permanent; bikeable (est. 2008)
Scale Model Solar System Eugene, Oregon 1,000,000,000 1.4 m 1.2 cm 150 m 5.9 km permanent; bikeable (est. 1997)
Planetstien, Sandnes Sandnes, Norway 1,000,000,000 1.4 m 1.2 cm 150 m 5.9 km permanent; walkable, bikeable (est. 2010)
Planetstien, Lemvig Lemvig, Denmark 1,000,000,000 1.4 m 1.2 cm 150 m 5.9 km permanent; walkable
Grand Trunk Pathway Solar System Model Terrace, British Columbia 1,000,000,000 1.4 m 1.3 cm 150 m 6 km permanent; walkable/bikeable (est. 2018)
Planet Walk Munich, Germany 1,290,000,000 1.1 m 1.0 cm 116 m 4.6 km permanent; walkable (est. 1995)
Strolling at the speed of light La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada 1,500,000,000 0.9 m 0.8 cm 100 m 3 km (Neptune) permanent; walkable (est. 2009) (temp?)
State of the Solar System Bellingham, Washington (state) 1,826,770,000 0.762 m 0.6858 cm 82 m ? permanent; walkable (est. 2016)
Meteoria Söderfjärden Vaasa, Finland 2,000,000,000 0.7 m ? ? ? permanent; walkable
Planetenweg Göttingen Göttingen, Germany 2,000,000,000 0.70 m 0.65 cm 75 m 3.2 km permanent; walkable/bikeable (est. 2013)
Solar System Walking Tour Gainesville, Georgia 2,000,000,000 0.7 m 0.6 cm 75 m 2.9 km permanent; walkable (est. 2000)
Rymdpromenaden ("Spacewalk") Gothenburg, Sweden 2,000,000,000 0.7 m 0.6 cm 75 m 3 km permanent; walkable (est. 1978)
Montshire Museum of Science Norwich, Vermont 2,200,000,000 0.6 m 0.6 cm 68 m 2.7 km permanent; walkable
Ride to Pluto: Boise's Solar System Boise Greenbelt, Boise, Idaho 2,200,000,000 0.5 m ? ? 2.4 km permanent; walkable & bikeable
The Solar walk Longview, Washington (state) 2,240,000,000 0.6 m 0.6 cm ? m 2.7 km permanent; walkable (est. 2001)
Akaa Solar System Scale Model Akaa, Finland 3,000,000,000 0.46 m 0.4 cm 49.9 m 1.958 km permanent; walkable (est. 2017), Proxima Centauri in Yulara, Australia
Elmhurst Scale Model of the Solar System Elmhurst, Illinois 3,044,620,000 0.5 m 0.4 cm 49.1 m 1.929 km permanent; walk & drive (est. 2013)
Solar System model group of sculptures Kecskemét, Hungary 3,300,000,000 0.418 m 0.4 cm 45 m 1.8 km permanent; walkable (est. 2002)
Milky Way path Westerbork, The Netherlands 3,700,000,000 ? ? ? 2.5 km permanent; walkable
Solar Walk Gainesville, Florida 4,000,000,000 0.3 m 0.3 cm 37.4 m 1.5 km permanent; walkable (est. 2002)
Otford Solar System Model Otford, England 4,595,700,000 0.3 m 0.3 cm 32 m 900 m permanent; walkable
Wooster Planet Walk Wooster, Ohio 5,000,000,000 0.3 m 0.3 cm 30 m 1.2 km permanent; walkable (est. 2014)
The Sagan Planet Walk Ithaca, New York 5,000,000,000 0.3 m 0.3 cm 30 m 1.2 km permanent; walkable (est. 1997)
Delmar Loop Planet Walk University City, Missouri 5,000,000,000 0.3 m 0.2 cm 30 m 870 m (Neptune) permanent; walkable (est. 2009)
The Solar Walk Cleveland, Ohio 5,280,000,000 0.3 m 0.2 cm 28.4 m 1.1 km permanent; walkable
Solar System Walk

An Exploration of Scale

Carlsbad, California 5,280,000,000 ? ? 28 m 1.119 km Located near Lake Calavera
O Sistema Solar no Parque Natal, Brazil 7,000,000,000 0.2 m 1.8 mm 22 m 875 m permanent; walkable/bikeable (est. June 3rd, 2016)
Voyage
  • National Mall, Washington, D.C. (2001)
  • Kansas City, Missouri (2008)[12]
  • Space Center Houston, Texas (2008)
  • Corpus Christi, Texas (2009)
[13][14]
10,000,000,000 0.1 m 0.1 cm 15 m 600 m  
NJ Botanical Garden Ringwood, New Jersey 10,000,000,000 0.2 m 2.0 cm 23.8 m 927 m walkable
Colorado Scale Model Solar System Fiske Planetarium, Boulder, Colorado 10,000,000,000 0.1 m 0.1 cm 15 m 600 m permanent; walkable (est. 1987)
Anstruther Model Solar System Anstruther, Scotland 10,000,000,000 0.1 m 0.1 cm 15 m 600 m permanent; walkable (est. 2014)
Le Chemin Solaire La Couyère, Brittany 10,000,000,000 1 m 0.1 cm ? 450 m permanent; walkable (est. 2011)
Solar Walk UofT Scarborough Toronto, Ontario and Eureka, Nunavut 10,000,000,000 0.14 m 0.13 cm 15 m 591 m permanent; walkable/bikeable (est. 2017)
MIT's Infinite Solar System Cambridge, Massachusetts 30,000,000,000 4.6 cm 0.43 mm 5.0 m 200 m permanent; walkable (est. 2018); along "Infinite Corridor"

2. Other Models of the Solar System: Historic, Temporary, Virtual, or Dual-Scale

Name Location Scale Sun dia. Earth dia. Sun-Earth Sun-Pluto Description  
Kirkhill model 1776[15] Scotland 1:778,268,620.8 1.8 m 1.6 cm 197 m - decayed
Planetenpad Utrecht Utrecht, Netherlands 1:1,000,000,000 1.3 m 1.3 cm 150 m 7.4 km (Neptune) Leads from Centre Utrecht to Rhijnauwen, on foot, on bike or on kayak
Sorghvliet The Hague, Netherlands 1:696,000,000 2.0 m 1.8 cm 215 m 6.5 km (Neptune) (temporary)
Sol Chicago Illinois, Chicago 1:73,660,000 19 m 17.3 cm 2,050 m 61 km (Neptune) (temporary) proposed
Le Chemin des planètes Saint-Luc, Switzerland 1:1,000,000,000 1.4 m 1.3 cm 150 m 5.9 km uses two different scales for distance and size
The Madison Planet Stroll Madison, Wisconsin 1:4,000,000,000 0.3 m 0.3 cm 37 m 1.5 km (virtual)
Solar System Stroll Perth, Western Australia 1:5,000,000,000 0.3 m 0.3 cm 30 m 1.2 km permanent; walkable (est. 2016)
The Thousand-Yard Model (virtual) 1:6,336,000,000 0.2 m 0.2 cm 25 m 1 km (virtual)
(dismantled) Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, Quebec 1:10,000,000,000 0.1 m 0.1 cm 15 m 0.6 km (dismantled) (est. 1985)
Lafayette Walk Detroit, Michigan 1:6,336,000,000 23 cm 0.2 cm 25 m 983 m A Walking Demonstration of (un)imaginable distances. "It's nowhere near Graham's Number."
Planets on the Path Chicago , Illinois 1:2,195,000,000     457 m 13.5 miles (2015, temporary)
The Solar System, to scale, for a school yard PDF for printing 1:11,945,400,000 11.6 cm 0.1 cm 12.5 m 492 m PDFs, A4 and 8½″×11″, to be printed, affixed to cards which are affixed to sticks; then to be held by children standing in a school yard. Includes major moons and asteroids.
Naas Virtual Solar System
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Naas, Ireland
1 : 154,557,330 9 m 82 mm 968 m 29 km (Neptune) In Ireland, this instantly recognisable roadside spherical sculpture is known to all, and is used as the model for the Sun. The website maps out the planetary orbits and shows everyday objects to scale the planets (e.g. a golf ball for Mars)

Several sets of geocaching caches have been laid out as Solar System models.

3. A Model Based on a Classroom Globe

If the Earth were reduced to the size of a typical classroom globe, 41 cm (16 inches) in diameter, the Moon would be a 10 cm (4 in) baseball floating 12 metres (40 feet) away. The Sun would be 14 stories tall (somewhat smaller than the Spaceship Earth ride at Epcot) floating 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) away. While a complete model to this scale has never been built, a Solar System built centered in Washington DC, London or Sydney, to that scale (approximately 1:31 000 000) would look like this:

Body Diameter Object comparison Semi-major axis Scale model location (USA) Scale model location (UK) Scale model location (Australia)
Sun 44.6 m (146 ft) 14 story tall sphere, Spaceship Earth (Epcot) zero White House Buckingham Palace Sydney Opera House
Mercury 15 cm (6 in) large grapefruit 1.9 km (1.2 mi) National Air & Space Museum Covent Garden Elizabeth Bay
Venus 38 cm (15 in) beach ball 3.5 km (2.2 mi) John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame, Arlington National Cemetery Regent's Park Sydney Football Stadium
Earth 41 cm (16 in) classroom globe 4.8 km (3.0 mi) Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Tower of London Rozelle Hospital
Moon 10 cm (4 in) baseball 12 m (40 ft) from Earth  
Mars 23 cm (9 in) dodgeball 7.2 km (4.5 mi) Rock Creek Park Golf Course King's College London Bondi Beach
Ceres 3 cm (1 in) golf ball 13.3 km (8.3 mi) West Falls Church station London City Airport Macquarie University
Jupiter 4.55 m (15 ft) Commercial van 24.9 km (15.5 mi) George Mason University Heathrow Airport Scotland Island
Saturn 3.81 m (12 ft 6 in) Roundabout (merry-go-round) 45.5 km (28.3 mi) Marine Corps Base Quantico Luton Copacabana
Uranus 1.63 m (5 ft 4 in) average 8th grade boy 92.2 km (57.3 mi) Aberdeen Proving Ground Waterlooville Bombo
Neptune 1.55 m (5 ft 1 in) average 6th grade boy 144.4 km (89.7 mi) Newark, Delaware Leicester Nelson Bay
Pluto 7 cm (3 in) baseball 190 km (118 mi) Wildwood, New Jersey Hereford Bulahdelah
Eris 8 cm (3 in) baseball 325 km (202 mi) Brooklyn, New York Blackpool Port Macquarie
Heliopause     571 km (355 mi) Toronto, Canada Stirling Cobar
α Centauri A 49.5 m (162 ft) Spaceship Earth (Epcot) 1,323,500 km (822,400 mi) over 3 times the distance to the Moon over 3 times the distance to the Moon over 3 times the distance to the Moon

If the scale of the above model is increased to 1:310 000 000, i.e. all distances and sizes reduced by a factor of 10, then the Earth and Venus can be modeled by ping pong balls, the Moon and smaller planets by various size marbles or lumps of modeling clay, the gas giants by balloons or larger playing balls, and a circle the diameter of the Sun can be drawn on the floor of most classrooms. The scale distance to Alpha Centauri would be 1/3 of the way to the Moon.

Some planetaria and related museums often use a scale model of the Solar System featuring a planetarium dome representing the Sun. Examples of this can be seen in planetaria like the Adler Planetarium, the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, the Clark Planetarium, the Griffith Observatory, the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum, the Adventure Science Center, etc.

A commonly-portrayed scale model of the Solar System would use fruits of varying sizes to represent the planets: The Sun would be represented by an adult human, Mercury would be represented by a pea, Venus by a cherry or a grape, Earth by a strawberry or an apricot, the Moon by a peppercorn, Mars by a blueberry, Jupiter by a watermelon or a medium-sized pumpkin, Saturn by a grapefruit or a large melon like a cantaloupe or a honeydew, Uranus by an apple or an orange, and Neptune by a lime or a plum.

References

  1. "Sweden Solar System |" (in sv-SE). https://www.swedensolarsystem.se/. 
  2. "Worlds Largest Virtual Solar System Drive" (in en-AU). https://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/warrumbungle-area/coonabarabran/attractions/worlds-largest-virtual-solar-system-drive. 
  3. Bayly, Julia (2021-08-18). "Here’s how you can visit the solar system in Maine, no rocket ship required" (in en-US). http://www.bangordailynews.com/2021/08/18/homestead/heres-how-you-can-visit-the-solar-system-in-maine-no-rocket-ship-required/. 
  4. "Maine Solar System Model" (in en-US). https://www.mainesolarsystem.com/. 
  5. Jones, Pam (2017-03-16). "Solar system to scale on Rail Trail" (in en). https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/central-otago/solar-system-scale-rail-trail. 
  6. Williams, Katarina (2016-11-12). "Otago Central rail trail to become 100 million to one model replica of the Solar System" (in en). https://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/news/86256117/otago-central-rail-trail-to-become-100-million-to-one-model-replica-of-the-solar-system. 
  7. "An Interplanetary Ride" (in en). https://www.otagocentralrailtrail.co.nz/ride/an-interplanetary-ride/. 
  8. "Community Solar System Scale Model | Museum & Informal Education Alliance". https://informal.jpl.nasa.gov/museum/content/community-solar-system-scale-model. 
  9. Schoenheider, Jon. "Interplanetary 5K takes runners across the solar system" (in en). https://www.25newsnow.com/2022/03/26/interplanetary-5k-takes-runners-across-solar-system/. 
  10. museumoflost (2018-04-05). "The St Kilda Solar System" (in en-AU). https://www.museumoflost.com/st-kilda-solar-system/. 
  11. "Nick visits the Melbourne Solar System trail, finds six planets, loses Neptune and takes a surprise trip to Proxima Centauri" (in en-US). https://www.maas.museum/observations/2010/08/03/nick-visits-the-melbourne-solar-system-trail-finds-six-planets-loses-neptune-and-takes-a-surprise-trip-to-proxima-centauri/. 
  12. Power & Light District to Union Station
  13. "The Voyage Scale Model Solar System". https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/resources/365/the-voyage-scale-model-solar-system. 
  14. Bennett, J. (2020-01-01). Voyage Mark II — Scale Model Solar Systems at Moderate Prices. 235. pp. 239.06. Bibcode: 2020AAS...23523906B. https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2020AAS...23523906B. 
  15. Possibly the first accurate scale model after the measurement of the astronomical unit in 1769.
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