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September 17, 2015

VIDEO: Solar system model built to scale in Nevada desert

Video clears up misconceptions about vast orbits

Science Astronomy
091715_SolarSystem Wylie Overstreet/Vimeo

Marble represents earth in this perspective shot in Nevada desert.

Very often when we think about space, we consider the vastness of the universe or the Milkyway, skipping over the magnitude of our own solar system. Even as our planetary knowledge makes it seem relatively easier to grasp, our understanding tends to be misled for the sake of simplicity. 

Our solar system is much more expansive than we might assume based on diagrams that are meant primarily to convey information and a conceptual view.

In effort to challenge this gap, a group of curious friends led by Wylie Overbash and Alex Gorosh drove more than 600 miles to a dried out lakebed in Nevada to create the world's first solar system model built to scale. What might seem to be a fairly straightforward project actually involved multiple steps to create the model at a ratio of 1 astronomical unit to 176 meters.

The video below details the nature of the project and clears up misconceptions about how our perspective, based on seeing the sun most days, actually applies to all of the planets in its orbit.

You can watch a second video about some of the preparation behind the project in a complementary video here