When we see depictions of the solar system, we often see an inaccurate representation of its size and scale. Some of the planets are often enlarged, other planets are minimized to a degree, while the orbital paths are shrunken down to be closer to the sun. This is done because, when viewing the entire solar system, you want to see everything that is there. Not only is there an enormous amount of space between the planets–especially between the rocky inner planets and the outer gas giants–but the scale between the inner and outter planets are at opposite ends of the spectrum. After all, you can fit over a thousand Earths inside Jupiter.
Giving an accurate depiction of the solar system’s scale is a very difficult task. It is a task that was recently tackled by filmmakers Alex Gorosh and Wylie Overstreet, using the “Earth as a marble” concept.
Gorosh and Overstreet traveled to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to create a scale model of the solar system where the Earth is only the size or a marble. To do this, you would need a 7 mile circle to complete the orbit.
They created planets out of glass spheres, lit by LEDs, and attached to poles on cars. Using GPS calculations, they then drove these make-shift planets around their model of the sun, creating tire tracks in the soft ground as orbital tracks. Once nighttime hit, they filmed a timelapse representation from a nearby mountain that accurately demonstrates the size and scale of our solar system. A breathtaking ratio of 1:847,638,000
Here is an exaggerated solar system lineup that I put together using the Digital Sky software. This is the same software that I use to make the bulk of the planetarium sky shows here at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum’s Irene W. Pennington Planetarium.