At Adeptia, we like to solve thorny integration problems for our customers. In fact, the more complex the integration project, the better we shine! We thought we'd devote some time to looking at how people are solving other thorny or complex challenges...and so we're kickstarting a new series examining the novel ways people or companies have found to get across the finish line. First up - a look at how some innovative astronomers have solved the challenge of building a to-scale model of the solar system...here on Earth.
Move over Burning Man. Two enterprising amateur astronomers recently used the Black Rock desert in Nevada to create a "to-scale" model of the solar system, showing the true relative distance of each planet from one another, and their relative sizes.
“Forget everything you think you know about the scale of the solar system,” said Wylie Overstreet, the mastermind behind the project. “Every single picture of the solar system that we ever encounter is not to scale. If you put the orbits to scale on a piece of paper, the planets become microscopic, and you won’t be able to see them.”
The genesis of the idea came while Wylie was watching a sunset one evening. “The circle of the sun was hanging just above the horizon, and it suddenly occurred to me that a scale reproduction of the earth and sun would allow one to perfectly recreate what I was seeing.”
To make the model, along with “To Scale: The Solar System, a film that documents the project, Wylie, Alex Gorosh, and three of their buddies headed out to the desert. Using an Earth the size of a small marble, the project required seven miles of empty space in order to provide an accurate perspective on our Solar System.
The result of their project provides a unique and extraordinary view of just how much open space there is in the Solar System, and the Universe.
The team took 36 hours to measure the distances between their model planets and to trace out the orbits. Alex set-up a camera on top of nearby mountain in order to shoot a time lapse image of what the planetary orbits look like.
Their surrogate Sun, a weather balloon, was about five feet in diameter. From the sun, the team drove to the location of Mercury, the first planet, and started building their model, including a light for tracking the planetary orbit. Further away, their marble-sized Earth could not even be seen from the model Sun.
Once they past Jupiter and Saturn, both custom-made from papier mâché, the Sun was far off in the distance. From Saturn, Wylie observed, “That tiny light out there is our Sun, just over a mile away.”
At Uranus, they reached the planet with the farthest orbit from the sun. “This is it,” said Wylie, “the edge of the solar system.”
Once they completed the model, the team waited for sunrise. At 7 a.m., the sun rose on the horizon. From the Earth, Alex filmed Wylie holding the model sun — and it was exactly the same size as the real ball of fire.
“So,” said Wylie, “if we've made our model correctly, your perspective from where Earth is on the model, will match your perspective from standing on the real Earth. So if you look back at the sun, you will see that the model sun and the real Sun are the exact same size. That's how you can tell that the proportions are correct.”
Remember, in the scale model, which stretches for seven miles, the Earth is represented by a tiny marble. That’s a really small object separated from other really small objects by a whole lot of empty space. The project puts into perspective just how tiny the Earth is compared to the immensity of the cosmos.
Astronaut Alan Shepard Jr., the first American in space, who was also the commander of the Apollo 14 moon mission, underscored that point of view in a 1994 interview with the LA Times. But Shepard was reacting to his real world perspective, not a scale model. “I realized up there that our planet is not infinite,” he said, “It's fragile. That may not be obvious to a lot of folks, and it's tough that people are fighting each other here on Earth, instead of trying to get together and live on this planet. We look pretty vulnerable in the darkness of space.”
Greg Sandler, a B2B content development expert and freelance writer, has worked on a wide range of business integration and web development projects. He also has written for hundreds of publications, organizations, government agencies, and private sector clients. In addition to editorial experience, Greg has extensive copywriting and scriptwriting experience. He also has both print and online custom publishing and advertorial experience. Check out his profile on LinkedIn or send him an e-mail.