OuterSpaceInfo.com was created from my desire to try to show the true size of the solar system. I am an astronomy nerd; the more I have learned about space and our universe, the more awed I have been by the sheer size of it.
This is entirely an educational website and not pushing an agenda nor endorsing anything (except good science!). I hope that you enjoy it and find it educational.
For frequently asked questions, see the FAQs page.
What's the Point?
Most represenations of the solar system show the sun and planets very close in both distance and size, so much so that many people do not understand the true size of our solar system. Hopefully this webpage will give a feel for the how vast our solar system really is.
A typical solar system collage: Sizes and distances are not to scale (not even close!)
A Bit of Background
Space is Really, Really, Really Big
As I began to grasp the size of space, I realized that almost everything I had learned about the sizes of the things in space was wrong. Yes, the numbers were right, but every illustration I had ever seen was not to scale. The solar system is usually shown with the Sun and all the planets tidily orbiting within a relatively compact area. This is reasonable: It's just not possible to show the objects of the solar system to scale in a poster or textbook or all together in any other meaningful way. However, because of this, most people think that the Sun and planets are quite close together - they may realize that they're further apart than shown, but they don't realize just how far apart they really are.
Just how large are the distances in space? Test your knowledge with an example from our galactic backyard! Below are the Earth and the Moon to scale. Drag the Moon to whatever distance you think is about right for its orbit's distance from the Earth:
Drag the Moon!
How It Began
For years, I've been thinking of ways to demonstrate the size of the solar system (and, by extension, give a taste of the immense size of our galaxy and universe).
It started when I was a teenager: I decided to make an accurate scale model of the solar system that hung from my bedroom ceiling. My family had just moved into a new house and I had a large bedroom. To maximixze real estate, I decided that I would put the Sun in one corner and Pluto in the diagonally opposite corner, which was ~6.5 meters (~20 feet) away. I had pictured the Sun would be about the size of an apple, and pluto maybe about the size of pea (stop here: What do you think the sizes of the Sun and Pluto should be based on this?). Well, I was in for a surprise.
In my bedroom-scale solar system, I discovered that the Sun was a whopping 1.7 millimeters in diameter (~0.07" - seriously). Earth was about 0.02 millimeters, and Pluto was microscopic. I was amazed - I had no idea how far everything was from everything else.
As I got older, I thought of my bedroom solar system again and again. I really wanted to give that "aha" moment to others, especially kids. But how?
A Long Drive
I've thought for years of building a model of the Sun and planets along a long, straight road somewhere. That way, families could drive between the planets - I think it would be a great experience to drive and drive, only to come across a tiny planet at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.
For example, if the Sun were 20 meters (22 yards) in diameter, Pluto is ~84 km (~52 miles) away and ~3.5 cm (~1.5") in diameter!
Unfortunately, I don't have the resources (time, money or polical savviness) to make this happen, so it's just been an idle dream (if anyone reading this can make it happen, please steal my idea!).*
Hang On ... !
One day in early 2014, as I was thinking about my solar system road, I realized that I may not have the resources to create my model in the real world, but hey, I'm a web developer: I could create it in the cyber world. So, amazed I hadn't thought of it years ago, I got started.
As with most projects like this, what I thought would be a quick few hours has turned into close to a year of work. I hope that you like the result :)
Engage Number One,
Hans Christoffersen (OuterSpaceInfo.com developer and resident nerd)
* If you are intested, I have worked out the relative sizes and distances for a "solar system road" based on a 20 meter diameter Sun: Planet Ratios.pdf.