Join 3,555 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


7 mph would be the equivalent of driving at the speed of light
September 4, 2006 7:23 AM   Subscribe

At forty miles (64.4 km) from Pluto to Sun, the Maine Solar System Model is the largest complete three-dimensional scale model of the solar system in the world. What, you didn't know there was more than one? And yes, Pluto is staying put.
posted by jessamyn (29 comments total)

 
Ask anyone who's been there. Presque Isle, Maine is truly the center of the solar system*.

*Assumes that you subscribe to the controversial theory that the sun is power not by nuclear fusion, but by the pure heat of thousands of incestuous relationships.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:33 AM on September 4, 2006


The one here in eugene. . . the planets keep getting vandalized and defaced. It is along the river bike path and it is disheartening to see that neptune, for example, is cut off it's perch.

It is a neato thing, though. . .I have yet to ride my bike as far as pluto, though. . .I guess I won't have to now. . .*smile*
posted by Danf at 7:36 AM on September 4, 2006


Neat! I'd like to get up there sometime and view the baseball that is Mars. (This would never work in NYC -- Mercury would have been vandalized before they got Venus up.)
posted by languagehat at 7:36 AM on September 4, 2006


Heh. I see Eugene is doing its best to emulate the Big Apple.
posted by languagehat at 7:37 AM on September 4, 2006


These things are pretty amazing - there's a 12km one near Interlaken in Switzerland.

Funnily enough I'm rereading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, and he talks about the size of the solar system - if Jupiter were the size of a full stop, then Pluto would be a molecule 10 metres away. I really cannot get my head around this - which is pretty much the point of Bryson's book.

And apparently the Solar System doesn't actually stop at Pluto. There is an asteroid belt, the Öpik-Oort Cloud, which stretches another 2000 times (about a light year) the distance of the Sun to Pluto, beyond Pluto.
posted by jontyjago at 7:38 AM on September 4, 2006


There's also the Smithsonian's Voyage: A Journey Through the Solar System, installed on the National Mall.
posted by sdrawkcab at 7:49 AM on September 4, 2006


I like the peppercorn model, which anyone can walk and feel the distances. A striking distance is... the gap between Mars and Jupiter. This was where your class swooned, on hearing that the next distance to be the suddenly larger leap of 95 paces (more than twice as as the total distance walked up till then). This gap marks the boundary between the inner and outer solar systems. The inner solar system contains the four small, hard, "terrestrial" (Earth-like) planet; the outer solar system contains the four large, fluid, "Jovian" (Jupiter-like) planets, with the exception of Pluto. If,instead, there were a planet in the gap, Bode's law would be more regular. Indeed, this is where most of the asteroids are, so they may be fragments of a planet which broke up or which was never able to forms.
# Mercury is not on ninth but only one hundredth of the way out to Pluto.
# The Earth is only a little more than one forteith of the way out to Pluto.
# Where is the half-way point in the journey out to Pluto? Most people would guess Jupiter or Saturn. But the surprising answer is Uranus.

posted by uni verse at 7:58 AM on September 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


Sorry , here is the link.
posted by uni verse at 8:00 AM on September 4, 2006


the Maine Solar System Model is the largest complete three-dimensional scale model of the solar system in the world

93,000,000:1?

15,000,000:1, motherfucker.
posted by cillit bang at 8:07 AM on September 4, 2006


I was in Boston last month, where the Science Museum has one of these. It also has a geocache, so you can search for the planets in the city. It made for a great walking tour on our first day there.
posted by Fully Completely at 8:09 AM on September 4, 2006


OK, cillit bang may have pointed it out in an impolite manner (what shall we clean your mouth out with?), but he/she is right. This is way not as good as the British one.
posted by imperium at 8:26 AM on September 4, 2006


Three dimensional? Does this mean they take into account the elevation of planetary orbits from the mean? And the curvature of the earth (as it relates to the model)? Because if so, I want the planets to move everyday as well.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:35 AM on September 4, 2006


There's a 10k one on a cycle path by York
posted by handee at 8:49 AM on September 4, 2006


I particularly like this headline: Unicyclists make rare visit to Planet earth.
posted by handee at 8:52 AM on September 4, 2006


Previously discussed here.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:21 AM on September 4, 2006


Pluto is still a planet in my eyes. It will be missed. I LOVE YOU PLUTO. :(
posted by sawthesign at 9:35 AM on September 4, 2006


Obligatory:

Logarithmic Map of the Universe. Very, very cool stuff. Good for putting things in perspective.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:36 AM on September 4, 2006


IIRC, in Eugene the most common problem was people stealing Uranus. Huh-huh. /Butthead
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:42 AM on September 4, 2006


Cool! Here's one in my neck of the woods. My house is just down the block from Jupiter.
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:12 AM on September 4, 2006


Logarithmic Map of the Universe. Very, very cool stuff. Good for putting things in perspective.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:36 AM PST on September 4 [+] [!]


That makes it all comprehensible. One then asks why the Universe is logarithmic?
posted by vacapinta at 10:53 AM on September 4, 2006


Cillit Bang: I call shenanigans. That model may be 1:1500000 in terms of distances, but the models are out of proportion-- Mercury is the size of the sun. For those distances, the sun should be 93 m in diameter.

Instead, I give you the actual greatest model solar system, at a scale of 20,000,000:1 -- Sweden Solar System, with a 73m diameter Sun.
posted by alexei at 11:50 AM on September 4, 2006


One then asks why the Universe is logarithmic?

That's just the representation. If the image were linear, it would take up more space than your hard drive could support, and your brain would likely explode upon viewing it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:58 AM on September 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


I really cannot get my head around this - which is pretty much the point of Bryson's book.

Well, to me it sounds pretty stupid to have an example of relative sizes and distances that is just as incomprehensible as the real thing. The point of saying "if x were as big as y" is to make the proportions understandable.


Also, I just have to use this quote:

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.
posted by Citizen Premier at 12:07 PM on September 4, 2006


Oooh, is there one for mass? The sun is a 70kg human, so the Earth is 0.2g - what's 0.2g? A peppercorn? Half a nail clipping? A hair?
posted by alasdair at 12:32 PM on September 4, 2006


I call shenanigans. That model may be 1:1500000 in terms of distances, but the models are out of proportion-- Mercury is the size of the sun. For those distances, the sun should be 93 m in diameter.

The size of the sun is represented by the great big radio telescope next to the model.
posted by cillit bang at 1:07 PM on September 4, 2006


Nice post, jessamyn. I wrote the first national magazine article about Maine’s Solar System (Air & Space/Smithsonian, January 2001), and was there the day a backhoe dug the hole for Mars, so it could take its place in line. Organizer Kevin McCartney did an amazing job coordinating hundreds of volunteers to get the job done. (He told me that if the project had had a budget, people would still be trying to figure out where the money would come from, and then how it would be distributed. Ignoring all that, he just went ahead and did the necessary work.)

Kevin accomplished the same thing with the Northern Maine Museum of Science he curates — no budget, really; he just stuck the museum in the halls of a university building (now also home to the Sun), in between the classrooms. He figured the areas already had lights and heat, and were being cleaned by the janitorial staff, so why not make use of them?

He's a wonderful, fascinating guy, with a classic list of Avid Interests.
posted by LeLiLo at 2:40 PM on September 4, 2006


alasdair, 0.2g is a large drop of water -- a cube of water about 6 millimeters or a quarter inch on edge.
posted by localroger at 6:39 PM on September 4, 2006


Earth Location: Percy's Auto Sales
Heehee, I love small townisms like this. Thanks jessamyn
posted by Popular Ethics at 7:36 PM on September 4, 2006


cillit bang: not to complain, but saturn is as big as the sun...
posted by uni verse at 9:06 AM on September 5, 2006


« Older Steve Irwin, better known as The Crocodile Hunter,...  |  The D-Day Photographs of Rober... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments