Scale model of the Solar System


Solar System models, especially mechanical models, called orreries, that illustrate the relative positions and motions of the planets and moons in the Solar System have been built for centuries. While they often showed relative sizes, these models were usually not built to scale. The enormous ratio of interplanetary distances to planetary diameters makes constructing a scale model of the Solar System a challenging task. As one example of the difficulty, the distance between the Earth and the Sun is almost 12,000 times the diameter of the Earth.

If the smaller planets are to be easily visible to the naked eye, large outdoor spaces are generally necessary, as is some means for highlighting objects that might otherwise not be noticed from a distance. The Boston Museum of Science placed models of the planets in major public buildings, all on similar stands with interpretive material. For example, the model of Jupiter, is located in the cavernous South Station waiting area. The properly scaled, basket-ball sized model is 1.3 miles (2.14 km) from the model Sun which is located at the museum, graphically illustrating the immense empty space in the Solar System.