Scaled Solar System Models

Scaled Solar System Models~ by Len Larkin

The following are links to web pages about actual scaled solar system models. Information about hands-on activities related to scaling the planets can also be found here. Be sure to check out the Neat Sites section at the bottom of this page for more links and a DIY scaling site.

Planet Walks

Most of these are reasonable walks, with Pluto ending up anywhere between one and six kilometers distant from Sun. Here are well-funded, stylish sites, as well as spartan, inexpensive ones. There is even one with a QuickTime movie virtual tour.

Ithaca, NY (Sagan Planetwalk) – Scale: 1 to 5000 Million (1.2km to Pluto)
Madison, Wisconsin (Madison Planet Stroll) – Scale: 1 to 4000 Million (1.5km to Pluto)
Gainesville, Georgia – Scale: 1 to 2000 Million (3km to Pluto)

Planet Drives

These are all a bit different but certainly more suited for driving than walking. Pluto-Sun distances range from 10km to 300km! Be sure to check out members of a unicycle club traveling the British model and the wonderful planetary artwork in the Peoria model. I still think the Presque Isle model is one of the best – it is linear, uncluttered and has great visual impact.

Northern England – Scale: 1 to 575 Million (10.5km to Pluto)
Boston, MA* – Scale: 1 to 400 Million (15km to Pluto) [seems to have been dismantled, but an account of the drive can be found about halfway down the page Tours of Model Solar Systems]
Peoria, Illinois* – Scale: 1 to 125 Million (48km to Pluto)
The scale on the Peoria site, stated as 1 to 140 Million, is inconsistent, and the listed Pluto-Sun distance of 64km, if referring to mean orbital distance, is incorrect.
Presque Isle, Maine* – Scale: 1 to 93 Million (65km to Pluto)
Sweden* – Scale: 1 to 20 Million (300km to Pluto)

[an interesting and comprehensive list of Planet Walks & Drives can now be found here on Wikipedia]

Neat Sites

Links Metapage – Page with extensive links related to modeling the solar system
Exploratorium Scale Calculator – Use this site to determine scale size and distance for planets and astronomical objects
Tours of Model Solar Systems – Entertaining story of a couple who toured the Peoria, Boston and Sweden models
Nightime Model Plans – Details on how to create this model.

[Webmasters note: an * after the link indicates original link unavailable, we have corrected them best we could 2016]

The following article about Planet Walks and Planet Drives ties in so well with Len Larkin’s original post we thought we would include it:

“I’ll have a double-double and a Pluto, please.”

Great article by science journalist and author Lee Billings about driving through a Scaled Solar System highway in Maine. Mr. Billings is author of Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars (2013).

Bringing Astronomy to Southern New Brunswick, Canada