A 7-Mile Scale Model of the Solar System Grows in the Nevada Desert

The solar system, even shrunk way, way down, is still immense.


The solar system is huge. Neptune, technically the last planet in our solar system, is 2.8 billion miles away. But really wrapping your head around numbers that large is tough. What's more, most representations of the —when you're talking about something 5.6 billion miles in diameter, even a massive planet like Jupiter (just 86,881.4 miles in diameter) is essentially a speck. 

Filmmakers Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh set out to try to capture just how big the solar system is. To do it, they needed 7 miles of desert. When you shrink the solar system down to 7 miles, the sun is about 5 feet across. Jupiter is about the size of a cantaloupe. Our own planet is the size of a marble. And to get out to the furthest reaches of our solar system means clambering into a car and driving for a while.

There have been other scale model representations of the universe made before. The University of Wisconsin that allowed riders to get a sense of how much emptiness there is in our cosmic neighborhood. A father and son built a scale model of the universe in Eugene, Oregon that  And Sweden , using the Stockholm Globe Arena to represent the sun, and lining up the planets at a 20 million to one scale. At this distance, the dwarf planet Pluto is 186 miles away.

For a scale model you can grok at your desk, ("a tediously accurate scale model of solar system," as he puts it) let's you scroll (and scroll and scroll and scroll) until you hit the outer limits of our solar system. And  from earlier this year is a good introduction on how long it takes something traveling at the speed of light to actually exit our solar system—it takes the video 45 minutes just to reach Jupiter.

Man-made objects, of course, have a much rougher go of it. Voyager 1, the first object created by humans to leave our solar system, took 33 years to make it out. 


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