Self Guided Solar System Tour

This is a self guided tour of a model of our solar scaled to 4,400,000km = 1m (metre).  All planetary images are from the NASA website.

On this scale, the distance from the Sun to earth is ~34m, and average radius of the solar system is ~1km. The overall map is shown below.

Starting from the Cedarbrook community center, proceed down the stairs into the park, and head towards the picnic shelter.  Near the shelter, two paths cross, next to a large “Start” sign. This is where our tour of the solar system begins.

Start – The Sun.  On the scale of this model, our Sun is roughly 30cm in diameter, about the size of a large pumpkin.

 

First stop – Mercury.  Walk along the path towards the bridge and playground about 13m (towards the end of the picnic shelter), and you are at Mercury
Mercury is named for the Ancient Roman god Mercury, who was the messenger of the gods.  Mercury is the smallest of the planets and is so close to the Sun that the surface temperature can exceed 400degC.  On the scale of this model, Mercury is approximately 1mm in diameter or the size of a poppy seed!  Mercury has no moons.

 

Second stop – Venus.   Continue along the path towards the bridge and playground about 10m (about 3 m from the bridge), and you are at Venus.

Venus is named for the Ancient Roman god of Love and Beauty.  Venus is about the same size as the Earth but is close to the Sun and the surface temperature can exceed 400degC and is thought to have the highest surface temperatures of all the planets.  On the scale of this model, Venus is approximately 2.7mm in diameter or the size of a small pea.  Venus has no moons.

 

Third stop – Earth.   Continue along the path towards the bridge and playground about 10m (around the front end of the bridge), and you are at Earth.
Earth is where we live,  Earth is about the same size as Venus but is at the correct distance from the Sun to maintain an atmosphere, water and sustain life.  Our home is very unique. On the scale of this model, Earth is approximately 2.9mm in diameter or the size of a small pea,

This a good point to look back towards the Sun and consider a couple of things:

  • it takes light approximately 8 minutes to travel from the Sun to the earth.  How long has it taken us to walk so far?
  • Consider the distances between the planets and the size of the planets – there’s a lot of empty space in Space!

 

Fourth stop – Mars.   Cross the bridge and continue along the path towards the playground about 3m, and you are at Mars.

Mars is named for the Ancient Roman god of War.  Mars is about the same half the size of Earth and is close enough to the Sun that the surface temperature is can be as high as 20degC and as low as -100degC.  On the scale of this model, Mars is approximately 1,5mm in diameter or the size of a mustard seed.  Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos.

Thanks to the unmanned surface rovers (like Curiosity), we know more about Mars than any other planet in our solar system, and this knowledge is crucial to the planned manned mission to Mars.  It is estimated that the trip to Mars will take 4-6 weeks – how long did it take us to walk from Earth to Mars?

We are now leaving the inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) and will travel through the asteroid belt on our way to Jupiter and the outer planets,  You will note that the distances between the planets will be much greater.

 

Fifth stop – Jupiter.   Continue along the path towards the playground.  When you are near to the playground (about 60m from Mars, You are in the Asteroid Belt, which consists millions of small pieces of rocky matter believed to be the remnants of an unformed planet.  On the scale of this model, even the largest asteroids are size of dust particles.  The largest object in the asteroid belt is the dwarf planet Ceres, with a diameter of less than 1000km (our moon is about 4 times larger).  Much of what we know of the outer planets comes from unmanned space probes like Voyager 1 and 2.  Continue walking along the path until you see a bridge on the trail forking to the right.  Stop at the Vita Course Station 19, and you are at Jupiter.Jupiter is named for the king of the Ancient Roman gods. Jupiter is more than 10 times the size of earth and is a “gas giant” planet.  Jupiter is known to be largely of composed of gases, ice and small particles.  The surface temperature is a frosty -150degC.  On the scale of this model, Jupiter is approximately 32mm in diameter or the size of a cherry tomato.  Jupiter has more than 50 moons, the four largest being Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

 

Sixth stop – Saturn.   Continue along the path to the right and cross the bridge, After you cross the bridge, continue on the path going to your left.  Continue walking along the path for about 50m until you reach a park bench.  You are at Saturn.

Saturn is named for the Ancient Roman god of agriculture.  Saturn is slightly smaller that Jupiter and easily differentiated from the other planets by its rings. Like Jupiter it is known to be largely composed of gases, ice and small particles.  As a “gas giant” planet, Saturn does not have true surface, and the temperature is about -180degc.  On the scale of this model, Jupiter is approximately 32mm in diameter or the size of a cherry tomato.  Saturn also has more that 50 moons, the largest being Titan.

 

Seventh stop – Uranus.   Continue along the path, cross the bridge and take the path to your right.  The distance to Uranus (300m) is approximately the distance you have walked so far.  When you are about 10m from the Bellamy Road overpass, you are at Uranus.

Uranus is named for the Ancient Greek god of the sky, Ouranos.  Uranus is roughly 4 times the size of earth and is composed of gases, ice and small particles.  Uranus has an effective temperature of -200degC. On the scale of this  model, Uranus is approximately 12mm in diameter or the size of a large blueberry.  Uranus has 27 moons, the largest being Oberon and Titania.

 

Eighth stop – Neptune.   Continue along the path and keep to your right.  The distance to Neptune is approximately 370m (this is greater than the distance between Uranus and Saturn).  You will walk over a bridge to your right near a construction area.  As you walk through a clearing, you will see a bridge on your left.  About 40m before the bridge (there newly planted trees near the path), you are at Neptune.

Neptune is named for the Roman god of the sea.  Uranus is roughly 4 times the size of earth and is composed of gases, ice and small particles.  Neptune has an effective temperature of -200degC. On the scale of this  model, Uranus is approximately 12mm in diameter or the size of a large blueberry.  Neptune has 13 known moons, the largest being Triton.  Sunlight requires about four hours to reach Neptune!  How long have you been walking?

 

The Outer Solar System.  At this point, our tour of the solar system is over.  If you continue walking towards the Lawrence Avenue overpass, you enter into an area of our solar system that is populated by dwarf plants like PlutoThere are four known dwarf planets in this region of the solar system: Pluto, Eris, Haumea and Makemake.

 

Some Final Thoughts: We hope that this walk has provided some insights into the relative size of the solar system. and how vast interplanetary space really is.  The universe is a wondrous place, and we hope that you learn more from the extensive resources available online.