Friday, October 28, 2011
The Scale of the Solar System by Car
Space is big, space is very, very big. The scale of it overwhelm us, and trying to get some perspective on the scale can be a bit daunting.
People have tired various ways to get the scale across, I've tried apples and Lillypillies in my back yard, there's a website with the images scaled so that you have to scroll forever (see also here), a series of flags in the courtyard of Scienceworks in Melbourne, and a Solar System Trail from St Kilda to Port Melbourne where the 5.9 Billion Km form the Sun to Pluto is scaled to 5.9 Km.
The most spectacular of these attempts is the Solar System Drive, a 200 Km drive from Siding Spring Observatory in the Warrumbungles (where the 37 meter dome Anglo Australian Telescope represents the Sun) to Dubbo where Pluto is located (and also Merriba, Tamworth, Narrabri and Gulgong, the outer planets are placed on 5 roads leading to Siding Spring, click on the images to embiggen) . The Planets are all scaled to the the ratio of the AAT dome to the Sun, and are placed on large bill boards (see images above, click to embiggen).
We visited it as part of the Road Trip! and visiting Pete Poulos (that's another story for later). It's spectacular, especially the first bits as you go down the winding mountain path fro Siding Spring. The inner planets are placed near some awesome views. But they are also distracting, there's a lot of sheer vertical cliff on those roads, and you don't want your attention taken away from the road too much (I only took a few shots because it was too difficult to stop).
If heading off to Central New South Wales is not on your agenda, try making your own scale Solar System Model in your back yard or along a local road (here's another version).