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December 21, 2010 5:36 PM   Subscribe

"This page shows a scale model of the solar system, shrunken down to the point where the Sun, normally more than eight hundred thousand miles across, is the size you see it here. The planets are shown in corresponding scale."

"Unlike most models, which are compressed for viewing convenience, the planets here are also shown at their true-to-scale average distances from the Sun. That makes this page rather large - on an ordinary 72 dpi monitor it's just over half a mile wide, making it possibly one of the largest pages on the web. This means you'll have to do a bit of scrolling if you want to find the planets, but don't despair. They are reasonably bright and labeled, so you can probably catch them flashing by in the blackness even if you are scrolling fairly fast.

Speaking of Pluto, I know it's no longer technically a planet, but it's still included in this model for reasons of tradition."
posted by bwg (63 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
These type of things blow my mind and kind of scare me.

Not exactly exactly a double, but see also.
posted by marxchivist at 5:43 PM on December 21, 2010


At one point I thought there were stars fading in, and I was like "Woooah, cool!', and then realized it was just laptop screen dust.

Also, if you feel Pluto nostalgia: For the Planet Pluto by the Music Tapes.
posted by Corduroy at 5:44 PM on December 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


I like the physical solar system models. I don't have a link but I think I saw it first here of one that uses the dome of a planetarium as the Sun. Working outward, the planets are located at various businesses and parks at appropriate distances. I think Saturn was hanging in one corner of a car dealership.
posted by localroger at 5:46 PM on December 21, 2010


Awww, only Mars shows up when I drag on the horizontal scrollbar. I think the other ones are falling between screen increments.
posted by subdee at 5:47 PM on December 21, 2010


In space, no one can hear you scroll horizontally.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:48 PM on December 21, 2010 [16 favorites]


localroger, I believe you're talking about the Peoria Solar System.
posted by Golfhaus at 5:49 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maine has one about the same size as Peoria's, but omits Eris.
posted by Knappster at 5:53 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


In space, no one can hear you scroll horizontally.

Yeah, that wasn't really working on my browser and I didn't feel like firing up IE. This is still good enough for me, although it's more about size as opposed to distance.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:55 PM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Awww. Pluto is a single pixel.
posted by Gator at 5:55 PM on December 21, 2010


Having looked at this on an iPhone, I now think that the "thumb scroll" should become a unit of distance in astronomy.
posted by brundlefly at 5:57 PM on December 21, 2010


How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming. When Pluto was first demoted, people said to me, “What about the children? How could you do this to them?” But, in fact, children live lives that are always changing. It’s the adults who have had the hardest time reconciling the new understanding of the solar system with what they remember from when they themselves were children. So, it made sense that I used to joke about what would happen the moment when Lilah first learned about the solar system. She would come home, and I would say, “Tell me all about the eight planets,” and when I would try to tell her about the olden times when we used to think there were nine—or even ten!—planets, she would slowly shake her head and exclaim, “Daddy, adults are so stupid.”

Interview with the assassin on CBC's Quirks and Quarks..

Universe Today Interview Part 1 and Part 2.

(Previously re Mike Brown.)
posted by maudlin at 5:59 PM on December 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


tw; ds
posted by Lukenlogs at 6:16 PM on December 21, 2010 [19 favorites]


Mercury
Venus
Earth
Mars
Jupiter
Saturn
Uranus
Neptune
Pluto
posted by synecdoche at 6:32 PM on December 21, 2010 [13 favorites]


You can cheat by adding a hash/anchor to the end of the URL

http://www.phrenopolis.com/perspective/solarsystem/#jupiter

(unfortunately no asteroids)
posted by device55 at 6:32 PM on December 21, 2010


doh
posted by device55 at 6:33 PM on December 21, 2010


Okay, I totally messed that up. Sigh. I meant well.
posted by synecdoche at 6:33 PM on December 21, 2010


So Neptune is apparently way the hell out there. And the distance between Mars and Jupiter is bigger than I realized.
posted by valkyryn at 6:46 PM on December 21, 2010


And here I was, thinking it was a long way down the road to the chemist's.
posted by mrgoat at 6:52 PM on December 21, 2010 [22 favorites]


woah! I kept slowing down thinking I would miss a planet, it just seemed like it was taking way too long.
posted by maortiz at 6:53 PM on December 21, 2010


I just saw Uranus.
posted by snofoam at 7:09 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know what I learned from this? That the Sun is cranking out a WAY more energy than I ever realized and that Jupiter & Saturn are much larger than I envisioned in my mind. Also (and as Douglas Adams so eloquently put it) Space REALLY is mindboggingly big.
posted by KingEdRa at 7:19 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can comprehend the vast distances between the planets with the help of aids like this, but once I feel like I have a handle on it, I lose my sense of gravity. I just don't get how gravity at that distance can be strong enough to keep them in orbit.

Back in the 90s, "harmonic convergences" were all the rage among the world-is-ending crowd. The idea was that if all the planets lined up, the gravitational tidal forces would rip us all to molecular shreds. This was rebutted by scientists saying that your computer exerts greater gravitational force on you from three feet away than all the planets would, even lined up (which they never actually were). Okay, I can understand that, but then comes back my original question: If the forces are so tiny at planetary distances, then why does the solar system stay together at all?
posted by fatbird at 7:19 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


fatbird Okay, I can understand that, but then comes back my original question: If the forces are so tiny at planetary distances, then why does the solar system stay together at all?

Because there is no stronger force to make them not stay together.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:30 PM on December 21, 2010 [14 favorites]


Man, we are NEVER getting to another planet, are we? I vote we put all of our money behind people who are trying to punch shortcuts in the universe.
posted by greenland at 7:32 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


KingEdRa, I had the exact opposite reaction. Jupiter seemed so much smaller than I would have thought, and Saturn as well. But the mindbogglingly, I'm in total agreement on that.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:39 PM on December 21, 2010


Apparently I've got issues; this is the third or fourth post in the last few weeks that I've found myself much more interested in the source of the page than the content. I'm curious as to the rationale behind the methodology that was used for laying the page out.

Sadly, it was done with tables.

Oddly, it was done with a bunch of table cells, of varying but seemingly related sizes. The spacing between the sun and Mercury is two cells, one at a width of 10000 and one at 13049.

Mercury to Venus is 10000 and 10259.
Venus to Earth is 10000 and 6675.
Earth - Mars: 10000, 10000, 11576.

At this point, I said to myself, "Ah-ha! I see what he's doing there."

A moment later, I said to myself, "WTF?"


Mars - Jupiter: 10000, 12205, 10000, 12221, 10000, 12221, 10000, 12221, 10000, 12221, 10000, 12221, 10000, 12221, 10000, 12221, 10000, 12221, 10000, 12224

Jupiter - Saturn: 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13092, 13098

I'm far too lazy to continue, but the last couple are similar and keep to patterns of sorts. Does anyone have any insight on that? Is it mere quirkiness? Some of that "new math" I don't understand? A communist plot? Bueller? Anyone?
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 7:40 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I assume he used some sort of WYSIWIG editor to make the site, though there's no "generator" meta tag.
posted by Gator at 7:50 PM on December 21, 2010


This is what the Internet is for.

Love it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:02 PM on December 21, 2010


fatbird Okay, I can understand that, but then comes back my original question: If the forces are so tiny at planetary distances, then why does the solar system stay together at all?

Oh, they're not tiny. Remember, gravity is a two-way street: You pull on the Earth, and the Earth pulls on you. Your computer has a greater pull than Jupiter on you, because it's very close. But you're very tiny, and the Earth is very, very big, compared to you, so the Earth and Jupiter pull on each other a lot more than you and Jupiter do.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:05 PM on December 21, 2010


I'd like to thank Jonathan Coulton for a little more Pluto nostalgia.

Yes, this song makes me all choked up. And I sing it to my newborn son. Shut up.
posted by hanov3r at 8:08 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


That, and the bulk of the Solar System staying together is the Sun pulling on each planet, and not so much the planets pulling on one another. Mercury's gravity affects the Earth, sure, but not very much; the Sun has, IIRC, over 99% of the mass of the entire solar system. Jupiter's got more mass than all the rest of the planets combined, and it still is just a fraction of a percent of the mass of the Sun.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:08 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


If the forces are so tiny at planetary distances, then why does the solar system stay together at all?

Somehow, everything affects everything else simultaneously. My recent small brain :asplode: came from trying to grasp centrifugal force. Picture an object spinning. Centrifugal force, right? Picture it out in the vacuum of deep space, say between galaxies. Still centrifugal force, right? Objects want to go in a straight line - got it. Sure. Now, take away the rest of the universe, except the spinning object. Centrifugal force? Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu...

Oh, also, the planets (small brain thing again here, actual physicists or mefites who understand them will be along to chide me soon, I figure) aren't so much going in a circle as they are going in a straight line through curved space. Hope that helps.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:16 PM on December 21, 2010


Peanuts, mrgoat. Peanuts.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:34 PM on December 21, 2010


It is amazing that we have sent anything, anywhere.
posted by mazola at 8:50 PM on December 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


It is amazing that we have sent anything, anywhere.

Interstellar Blues

sent my baby to the chemist's
to buy shampoo and rinse
that was seven weeks ago
ain't seen my baby since
i wish she'd come back home to me
no one else can take her place,
i b'lieve she bought a rocket, y'all
and now she's somewhere out in space

i guess she's on her way to Venus
or Jupiter or Mars
i guess she's scrolling sideways
and heading for the stars
i'd go looking for her, people
but where would i begin?
the solar system's just so big
and in it i ain't got a friend
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:27 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am veryvery small.
posted by patrick rhett at 9:55 PM on December 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


You know what I learned from this? Shit is far. And my thumb hurts.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:08 PM on December 21, 2010


Regarding Pluto, this image from Caltech made it very clear for me why it needed to be demoted or we would have an ever growing list of "planets".

Regarding why the solar system stays together: There is nothing else close enough and big enough to pull on the planets more than the Sun. The force pulling Pluto towards the sun (and viceversa) may be almost nothing, but there is nothing pulling harder in another direction. I remember reading something from the Harvard-Smithsonian center for astrophysics about a theory that some 4 billion years ago another star with planets came close enough to the Solar System (where close enough is measured in light years) that it took away anything that was 50 AU from the Sun or so, but the Sun in turn kept some planetoids from the thieving star, probably Sedna.
posted by Dr. Curare at 10:54 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Speaking of Pluto, I know it's no longer technically a planet, but it's still included in this model for reasons of tradition.

This model (and Dr. Curare's link) explains pretty well why Pluto was always a stretch.

You think the sun is massive now? Wait until she goes all red giant on us and swallows up the Earth.
posted by three blind mice at 11:30 PM on December 21, 2010



Regarding Pluto, this image from Caltech made it very clear for me why it needed to be demoted or we would have an ever growing list of "planets".


Regarding Seaborgium, this image from the University of Richmond made it very clear to me why it needs to be demoted, or we would have an ever growing list of "elements".
posted by chimaera at 11:59 PM on December 21, 2010


The Universe is incredibly effing big.

We are but tiny bits of dust in the Cosmos.

Self-aware bits of dust, but still...
posted by Windopaene at 12:16 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


fuse theorem: This is still good enough for me, although it's more about size as opposed to distance.

Personally I like this one if going for sheer size.
posted by Talanvor at 12:51 AM on December 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


We are but tiny bits of dust in the Cosmos.

No dude... in the wind.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:59 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


cool, but models of the solar system that only include the "planets" are pretty deceptive when it comes to describing the sheer amount of real estate out there...

Personally I like this one if going for sheer size.

..there's an animated version here that might give a better sense of the scale of these objects
posted by sexyrobot at 2:14 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Regarding Pluto, this image from Caltech made it very clear for me why it needed to be demoted or we would have an ever growing list of "planets".

That image made it very clear for me why Pluto must, in fact, be included: so that Eris can finally take her rightful place as a planet. All hail the Goddess of Discord and her faithful moon, Dysnomia!
posted by dialetheia at 2:42 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heya bwg! Thank you.
posted by rmmcclay at 4:43 AM on December 22, 2010


Remember that if you took less than about four-and-a-half hours to scroll from the Sun to Pluto, you just traveled faster than light.
posted by Ritchie at 5:07 AM on December 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


SPACE IS BORING!
posted by es_de_bah at 6:09 AM on December 22, 2010


I just had a rather strange, sideways thought:

Do you guys realize that you just downloaded and viewed, easily, a picture that's a half a MILE wide?

I remember when a single screen of bitmap graphics, with maybe four colors, was the New Hotness, and here I am, thirty years later, viewing images most easily measured in terms of miles.

Whoah.
posted by Malor at 6:14 AM on December 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Thank Eru for synecdoche's comment, that page is annoying to scroll.

i love space, and math.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:28 AM on December 22, 2010


Man, that is so weird. For my own amusement, I just made something like this the other day.

Also for my own amusement, I like to think about things like this: I have a black peppercorn on my desk, about 4-5 mm in diameter. If I pretend that it is the Earth, then 1 light second is about a handwidth, the Sun a medium-sized beach ball about 30 paces away (which just happens to be about how far it is to the river from my house), and Pluto is a grain of sand about a 20 minute walk the other direction. Tomorrow, my wife and I will travel to her parents' house, about a 3 hour drive north on the Autobahn, or about 330 km. If that peppercorn is the Earth, will be in interstellar space, roughly one light month out. To get to the next nearest star (Proxima Centauri, about the size of a tennis ball), I'd have to hop on a plane and take a day-long flight to Australia.
posted by moonbiter at 7:42 AM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


We are but tiny bits of dust in the Cosmos.
Actually we are motes on the dust.

It would be interesting to have the Voyager space craft on here just to get a sense of how far out into interstellar space it is. Also, it makes me even more amazed that they can aim a spacecraft at someplace like Mars, get it into orbit, and land something like the Mars Rovers.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 7:57 AM on December 22, 2010


fuse theorem already linked to the rense.com size comparison that is my go-to for this sort of thing. Because, between looking at stupefyingly giant objects and unimaginably vast empty spaces, there is nothing better for making me and my problems feel absolutely insignificant.
posted by quin at 8:00 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always loved this Bill Nye clip, not only for the distances between the sun and the planets, but also the distance to the next star. It's mind-bogglingly far.
posted by nushustu at 8:17 AM on December 22, 2010


SPACE IS BORING!

NUH UH! SPACE IS THE PLACE!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:29 AM on December 22, 2010


I feel so insignificant.

Of course, I always feel insignificant.
posted by maryr at 9:09 AM on December 22, 2010


This is also a nice exercise in scale, both large and small. Love this kind of thing. Thanks.
posted by umberto at 9:36 AM on December 22, 2010


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


And the solar system is nothing compared to a galaxy. And a galaxy... well, just take a look at the Hubble deep field photo again. And that is nothing compared to...

Studying astronomy and gaining a real sense of exactly how inconceivably insignificant and irrelevant earth is, was actually a major factor in making me an atheist. By no means the only one. But a big one.
posted by Decani at 10:23 AM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know if this is confirmation bias or what, but it seems like there's been a lot of Douglas Adams quotery around there parts lately, and I'd just like to point out that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the 1981 British TV series, not the unspeakable abomination of a movie they made a few years ago) is currently available for viewing on Hulu.
posted by Gator at 10:27 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh boy, thanks Gator, that will keep me busy this holiday!
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen at 12:03 PM on December 22, 2010


This is still good enough for me...

But it's incomplete!
posted by Evilspork at 2:17 PM on December 22, 2010


But it's incomplete!

You aren't wrong.

Arcturus: Radius 25.7 ± 0.3[1] R☉

Eta Carinae: Radius 85–195 [5] R☉

Eta Carinae is fucking big. Like big in a way that just makes my mind stop working.

biiiiig.
posted by quin at 3:02 PM on December 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


localroger, I believe you're talking about the Peoria Solar System.
posted by Golfhaus at 7:49 PM on December 21


After touring the Peoria model, I made a google maps API, hoping to make it easier for future travelers- there were no clear directions, making it a bit of an adventure for us. Barely made it to Pluto before the furniture store closed. I emailed it to the museum but they never replied. Great fun though.
posted by hypersloth at 8:02 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


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