Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Our Little Solar System is Restored!

 A year and a half ago the kids and I made a little solar system in the neighborhood. It was so neat to see the scale of the solar system over two and a half miles. Those outer gas planets sure are far apart!! It was also mind-blowing to me when I asked an astronomer where the end of the road would be and he said it would still be in our solar system, in the Oort cloud, a comet-forming area way far away from Planet Earth.

Unfortunately, last fall someone removed the further reaches of the solar system, Saturn to Makemake. (They missed Eris, which is easy to miss!) I had several people tell me we should redo the solar system, and eventually I found the time to find the boards, paint the background, paint the names, gather planets, have my husband cut the boards, and go hang everything up. On the "hang up" day, we decided we would go check on everything, and Desert Girl was the photographer for the day.

The sun, which to scale would be so huge would require a massive board that we don't have, is just partially represented. It's hanging in there, but is in need of a little TLC. Desert Girl also had fun photographing the nearby fish. I guess they would be called sunfish? Ha.

Okay, so do you know the order of the planets in our solar system? Without further ado, here they are:

Having fun with wire cutters
Pausing for a selfie

Ceres is a relatively new dwarf planet, found in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter

We'll see if Saturn's rings stay on better this time!

Pluto has a really fun ball for its representation (and a little on the large side, but we didn't have many options!). It's across from the Ranching Exhibit, so easy to check out.
We didn't quite make it out to Eris (well, it is so far away, and our spaceship was running low on fuel), so here's the photo from 2013.

And, oops, did you notice our mistake? We reversed Haumea and Makemake from last time, but it turns out we may be more accurate now, as Makemake's orbit is longer than Haumea's (310 years vs 285 years), according to this table. And Eris? Well, it takes 557 years to get around the sun once!

We hope this model solar system will encourage people to learn more about the bigger picture of where we live. I also find it a great place to ponder when I'm facing something difficult. As I travel from planet to planet, it helps put things in perspective. My problem is really, really tiny in the scope of things.

Great Basin National Park is offering astronomy programs every Saturday night, and once Memorial Day rolls around, the programs will be every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights. They are a great way to learn even more about the amazing world--no make that the amazing solar system/galaxy/universe.

By the way, the Little Solar System is open to additions. Want to put in a spaceship? How about a UFO? There's already a great comet. Add anything you like, this is a community project, open to making it better!

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