Can you draw the solar system to scale?

Look at the image. It’s something that we’re all familiar with, an image of our solar system. Do you think it is accurate? Actually, it is not. In fact, most of us do not even have a good idea of the relative distances in the solar system. For example, contrary to our imagination that Neptune is just a bit beyond Jupiter, the distance between Neptune and Jupiter is actually 5 times more than the distance between Earth and Jupiter.

Have you ever seen a picture of the solar system accurately drawn to scale?

The simple answer: No way!

Why is that so? To create a scale model of the solar system, we need to be able to show the planets AND the distances between them. The distances in the solar system are huge and the size of even the largest planet is miniscule compared to the distances between the planets.

Bill Bryson in his book “A short history of nearly everything” helps give an idea of how big the solar system really is.

‘On a diagram of the solar system to scale, with Earth reduced to about the diameter of a pea, Jupiter would be over a thousand feet away and Pluto would be a mile and a half distant (and about the size of a bacterium, so you wouldn’t be able to see it anyway). On the same scale, Proxima Centauri, our nearest star, would be almost ten thousand miles away. Even if you shrank down everything so that Jupiter was as small as the period at the end of this sentence, and Pluto was no bigger than a molecule, Pluto would still be over thirty-five feet away.’

Interesting, isn’t it? Know someone who might find this interesting? Share it with them.