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Solar System Model Project Assignment List

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 objects in such models do not move. Traditional orreries often did move and some used clockworks to make the relative speeds of objects accurate. These can be thought of as being correctly scaled in time instead of distance.

Scale models in various locations[edit]

Several towns and institutions have built outdoor scale models of the Solar System. Here is a table comparing these models.

NameLocationScaleSun dia.Earth dia.Sun–EarthSun–PlutoDescription
Actual statistics1:11.392 Gm12.76 Mm149.6 Gm5.914 Tm
Solar System Walk

An Exploration of Scale

Carlsbad, California1:5,280,000,00028 m1,119 mLocated near Lake Calavera [Trailhead]
Sweden Solar System Sweden1:20,000,00071 m65 cm7,600 m300 kmpermanent; country-wide (begun 1998)
Solar System DriveCoonabarabran, New South Wales1:38,000,00037 m34 cm4,100 m205 kmpermanent; drivable (est. 1997)
Maine Solar System ModelUniversity of Maine at Presque Isle, Maine1:93,000,00015 m13.7 cm1,600 m64 kmpermanent; drivable (est.2003)
Riverfront Museum Central Illinois Community Solar SystemPeoria, Illinois1:125,000,00011 m10.0 cm1,200 m47 kmpermanent; drivable (est. 1992?)
Planet LofotenLofoten1:200,000,0007 m ? ?30 kmunder construction
Planet Trek Dane CountyMadison - Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin1:200,000,0007 m6.6 cm777 m38.3 kmpermanent; fully accessible by foot & bike paths (est. 2009)
If the earth were a Ping-Pong ball : Paul and Annika take the Solar SystemWestminster, London1:318,905,0004.36 m40 mm ? ?In construction; Walk & Drive (est. 2018) Centered around Deans Yard, Westminster
Light Speed Planet WalkAnchorage, Alaska1:350,000,000 ? ?16.6 kmpermanent; drivable (est. 2005)
Moab's Scale Model of the Solar SystemMoab, Utah1:400,000,0003.6 m ? ?15.3 kmpermanent; Walk & Drive (est. 2007)
Solar System StrollPerth, Western Australia1:5,000,000,0000.3 m0.3 cm30 m1.2 kmpermanent; walkable (est. 2016)
Community Solar System TrailBoston, Massachusetts1:400,000,0003.5 m3.2 cm380 m15.3 kmpermanent; drivable
The Solar System to ScaleEstremoz1:414,000,0003.4 m3.1 cm361 m14.3 kmpermanent; drivable; bikeable
Somerset Space WalkBridgwater and Taunton Canal, Somerset1:530,000,0002.5 m ? cm ? m11 kmpermanent; bikeable (est. 1997)
York’s solar system modelYork, England1:575,872,2392.4 m2.2 cm260 m10.3 kmpermanent; bikeable (est. 1999)
Michigan Solar System ModelColeman, Midland County. Michigan, USA1:608,000,0002.3 m2.1 cm324 m9.8 kmpermanent; bike trail Sun & Pls. Spheres (2017)
Nine ViewsZagreb1:680,000,0002.0 m1.9 cm225 m8.7 kmpermanent; bikeable (est. 2004)
Walk the Solar SystemFort St. John, British Columbia1:682,353,0002.0 m1.9 cm219 m8.6 kmunder construction
McCarthy ObservatoryNew Milford, Connecticut1:761,155,0001.8 m1.7 cm195 m7.1 kmpermanent; bikeable (est. 2009)
Trilho do Sistema SolarÁrea de Paisagem Protegida do Corno de Bico, Paredes de Coura1:831,000,0001.675 m1.533 cm180 m5.42 km (Neptune)permanent; walkable; bikeable (est. 2016)
Model of the Solar SystemHelsinki1:1,000,000,0001.4 m1.2 cm149.6 m6.1 kmpermanent; bikeable
Planetenmodell HagenHagen1:1,000,000,0001.4 m1.3 cm150 m5.9 kmpermanent; bikeable (est. 1971)
Planetenweg SchwarzbachKriftel1:1,000,000,0001.4 m1.3 cm150 m5.9 kmpermanent; bikeable (est. 1998)
Uetliberg PlanetenwegZurich1:1,000,000,0001.4 m1.3 cm150 m5.9 kmpermanent; bikeable
PlanetenwanderwegEhrenfriedersdorf, Drebach and Heidelbachtal1:1,000,000,0001.4 m1.3 cm150 m5.9 kmpermanent; bikeable
Planetary TrailHradec Králové1:1,000,000,0001.4 m1.3 cm150 m5.9 kmpermanent; bikeable (est. 2005)
Melbourne Solar SystemMelbourne1:1,000,000,0001.4 m1.3 cm150 m5.9 kmpermanent; bikeable (est. 2008)
Scale Model Solar SystemEugene, Oregon1:1,000,000,0001.4 m1.2 cm150 m5.9 kmpermanent; bikeable (est. 1997)
Planet WalkMunich1:1,290,000,0001.1 m1.0 cm116 m4.6 kmpermanent; walkable (est. 1995)
Strolling at the speed of lightLa Malbaie, Quebec1:1,500,000,0000.9 m0.8 cm100 m3 km (Neptune)permanent; walkable (est. 2009) (temp?)
Rymdpromenaden ("Spacewalk")Gothenburg1:2,000,000,0000.7 m0.6 cm75 m3 kmpermanent; walkable (est. 1978)
Akaan aurinkokuntamalliAkaa, Finland1:3,000,000,0000.46 m0.4 cm49.9 m1,958 mpermanent; walkable (est. 2017)
Elmhurst Scale Model of the Solar SystemElmhurst, Illinois1:3,044,620,0000.5 m0.4 cm49.1 m1,929 mpermanent; walk & drive (est. 2013)
Wooster Planet WalkWooster, Ohio1:5,000,000,0000.3 m0.3 cm30 m1.2 kmpermanent; walkable (est. 2014)
VoyageNational Mall, Washington, D.C. (2001)

Power & Light District to Union Station, Kansas City, Missouri (2008)
Space Center Houston, Texas (2008)
Corpus Christi, Texas (2009)

1:10,000,000,0000.1 m0.1 cm15 m0.6 km
New Jersey State Botanical GardenRingwood, New Jersey1:10,000,000,0000.2 m2.0 cm23.8 m927 mwalkable
Solar System Walking TourGainesville, Georgia1:2,000,000,0000.7 m0.6 cm75 m2.9 kmpermanent; walkable (est. 2000)
Montshire Museum of ScienceNorwich, Vermont1:2,200,000,0000.6 m0.6 cm68 m2.7 kmpermanent; walkable
Ride to Pluto: Boise's Solar SystemBoise Greenbelt, Boise, Idaho1:2,200,000,0000.5 mn/a2.4 kmpermanent; walkable & bikeable;
The Solar walkLongview, Washington1:?0.6 m0.6 cm ? m2.7 kmpermanent; walkable (est. 2001)
Milky Way pathWesterbork1:3,700,000,000 ? ? ?2.5 kmpermanent; walkable
Solar WalkGainesville, Florida1:4,000,000,0000.3 m0.3 cm37.4 m1.5 kmpermanent; walkable (est. 2002)
Otford Solar System ModelOtford, England1:4,595,700,0000.3 m0.3 cm32 m0.9 kmpermanent; walkable
The Sagan Planet WalkIthaca, New York1:5,000,000,0000.3 m0.3 cm30 m1.2 kmpermanent; walkable (est. 1997)
The Solar WalkCleveland, Ohio1:5,280,000,0000.3 m0.2 cm28.4 m1.1 kmpermanent; walkable
Delmar Loop Planet WalkUniversity City, Missouri1:5,000,000,0000.3 m0.2 cm30 m0.87 km (Neptune)permanent; walkable (est. 2009)
Colorado Scale Model Solar SystemFiske Planetarium, Boulder, Colorado1:10,000,000,0000.1 m0.1 cm15 m0.6 kmpermanent; walkable (est. 1987)
Anstruther Model Solar SystemAnstruther, Scotland1:10,000,000,0000.1 m0.1 cm15 m0.6 kmpermanent; walkable (est. 2014)
Le Chemin SolaireLa Couyère, Brittany1:10,000,000,0001 m0.1 cm-0.45 kmpermanent; walkable (est. 2011)
Sunspot Solar System ModelSunspot, New Mexico1:250,000,0005.6 m5.1 cm1.5 m23,6 kmpermanent, drivable
Planetenweg GöttingenGöttingen1:2,000,000,0000.70 m0.65 cm75 m3.2 kmpermanent; walkable/bikeable (est. 2013)
NameLocationScaleSun dia.Earth dia.Sun-EarthSun-PlutoDescription
Scottish Solar System Project Scotland1:8,200,000170 m156 cm18,300 m551 km (Neptune)(virtual)
Spaced Out ProjectEngland1:15,000,000----under construction; country-wide. Partially dual scale (No scale model of the sun.)
SorghvlietThe Hague, Netherlands1:696,000,0002.0 m1.8 cm215 m6.5 km (Neptune)(temporary)
Sol Chicago Illinois, Chicago1:73,660,00019 m17.3 cm2,050 m61 km (Neptune)(temporary) proposed
Le Chemin des planètesSaint-Luc, Switzerland1:1,000,000,0001.4 m1.3 cm150 m5.9 kmuses two different scales for distance and size
The Madison Planet StrollMadison, Wisconsin1:4,000,000,0000.3 m0.3 cm37 m1.5 km(virtual)
The Thousand-Yard Model(virtual)1:6,336,000,0000.2 m0.2 cm25 m1 km(virtual)
(dismantled)Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, Quebec1:10,000,000,0000.1 m0.1 cm15 m0.6 km(dismantled) (est. 1985)
Lafayette WalkDetroit, Michigan1:6,336,000,00023 cm0.2 cm25 m983 mA Walking Demonstration of (un)imaginable distances. "It's nowhere near Graham's Number."
Planets on the PathChicago, Illinois1:2,195,000,000457 m11.4 m(2015, temporary)
The Solar System, to scale, for a school yardPDF for printing1:11,945,400,00011.6 cm0.1 cm12.5 m492 mPDFs, 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.

Several sets of geocachingcaches have been laid out as solar system models.

A model based on a classroom globe[edit]

Most classroom globes are 41 cm (16 inches) in diameter. If the Earth were reduced to this size, the Moon would be a 10 cm (4 in) baseball floating 12 metres (40 feet) away. The Sun would be a beach ball 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:

BodyDiameterobject comparisonSemi-major axisscale model location (U.S.)scale model location (U.K.)scale model location (Australia)
Sun44.6 m (146 ft)14 story tall sphere, Spaceship Earth (Epcot)zeroWhite House, Washington DCBuckingham PalaceSydney Opera House
Mercury15 cm (6 in)large grapefruit1.9 km (1.2 mi)National Air and Space MuseumCovent GardenElizabeth Bay, New South Wales
Venus38 cm (15 in)beach ball3.5 km (2.2 mi)John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame, Arlington National CemeteryRegent's ParkSydney Football Stadium
Earth41 cm (16 in)classroom globe4.8 km (3.0 mi)Ronald Reagan Washington National AirportTower of LondonRozelle Hospital
Moon10 cm (4 in)baseball12 m (40 ft) from Earth
Mars23 cm (9 in)dodgeball7.2 km (4.5 mi)Rock Creek Park Golf CourseKing's College LondonBondi Beach, New South Wales
Ceres3 cm (1 in)golf ball13.3 km (8.3 mi)
Jupiter4.55 m (15 ft)Commercial van24.9 km (15.5 mi)George Mason University, Fairfax, VirginiaLondon Heathrow AirportScotland Island, New South Wales
Saturn3.81 m (12 ft 6 in)Roundabout (merry-go-round)45.5 km (28.3 mi)Marine Corps Base Quantico, Triangle, VirginiaLuton, BedfordshireCopacabana, New South Wales
Uranus1.63 m (5 ft 4 in)average 8th grade boy92.2 km (57.3 mi)Aberdeen Proving Ground, Aberdeen, MarylandWaterlooville, HampshireBombo, New South Wales
Neptune1.55 m (5 ft 1 in)average 6th grade boy144.4 km (89.7 mi)Newark, DelawareLeicester, LeicestershireNelson Bay, New South Wales
Pluto7 cm (3 in)baseball190 km (118 mi)Wildwood, New JerseyHereford, HerefordshireBulahdelah, New South Wales
Eris8 cm (3 in)baseball325 km (202 mi)Brooklyn, New YorkBlackpool, LancashirePort Macquarie, New South Wales
α Centauri A49.5 m (162 ft)Spaceship Earth (Epcot)1,323,500 km (822,400 mi)over 3 times the distance to the moonover 3 times the distance to the moonover 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 α Centauri would be 1/3 of the way to the Moon.

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

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

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