Sunday, September 20, 2015

Exploring the Solar System by Bicycle

While Christine and I were exploring the Eugene bike trails, we came upon a one-billionth scale model of one of the planets. It turned out to be part of a larger work, a model of the solar system. Today we hopped on our bikes and completed a lovely and educational tour of the entire installation. Riding from planet to planet, reading the signs and seeing the relative sizes of the models really help give a sense of the vastness of space and the place of our tiny home world within it.

It was a beautiful morning for riding and we rode out to the farthest reaches of the solar system.

The official space scientists might have demoted Pluto to dwarf planet status, but Eugene still recognizes it. It is really tiny. At this scale it's only a few mm across.

We roll on toward Neptune.

Neptune is much bigger than Pluto.

The signs tell about the planets and contain a map showing how they are laid out along the trail.

The arrows at the base give the distance to the sun.

The real sun (not the model) is out in force today. It's still early so it's not too hot.

Christine claims I take too many pictures of her.

Here we are at Uranus.

On to Saturn.

The model makers totally had to fudge on the scale for the thickness of the rings to make them visible and durable.

Jupiter is the biggest planet. Like Saturn it's a gas giant.

The inner planets are all relatively close to the sun and in this model they're all near the duck pond on the north side of the river. Mars is about the size of a little marble.

After visiting Mars, we stop off at Earth. As the Grateful Dead said, "A peaceful place, or so it looks from space. A closer look reveals the human race."

This shows how close the Earth and the Moon are. This trip really made me appreciate the relative complexities of various space missions. Getting to Mars is much harder than going to the Moon. The fact that we could get a probe out to Pluto to get those recent pictures in flat out amazing.

Christine admiring Venus.

Now we've made it to the closest planet to the sun, Mercury.

Here's the sun. It's kind of weird seeing the model sun in the light from the real sun.

And that concludes our tour of the solar system. I hope you enjoyed it.

No comments: