Astronomy Cosmology Culture popular science and science education reflections/meditations

The Solar System, to scale, on a dry lakebed

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Typical images of the solar system are NOT to scale, showing the planets at grossly exaggerated sizes. Here is a typical case, HT Wikimedia, WP and Planet User:

An illustration of the Solar system, with bodies to scale but not distances (HT: Wikimedia, WP and Planet User)

So, some video makers did a little project to show it to scale, out to Neptune . . . beyond, lies vastly more of course, but Pluto has been demoted to “dwarf planet.”


A Pandemic Sunday reflection from scripture comes to mind:

Psalm 19:1The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

12 Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.[KJV]

Food for thought. END

PS: Of course, someone will be bound to take up the talking point that the vastness of the cosmos points to the insignificance of man, typically tied to the Copernican demotion from the centre of the cosmos. Such is triply wrong. For one, as Ptolemy and others put it, in his geocentric model, the scale of the earth — calculated since Eratosthenes — as a ratio to the sphere of the fixed stars is as a mathematical point. Taken literally, infinity; it probably was figurative but shows that immensity was understood 2,000+ years ago. Second, Copernicus PROMOTED us from the sump of the cosmos to the heavens, alongside the other moving stars. Third, as Psalm 19 reminds, the true centre is the Creator God, whose heavens declare his glory and whose creature, man, reflects his image and should seek enlightenment of the heart from his Source and Sustainer.

19 Replies to “The Solar System, to scale, on a dry lakebed

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    The Solar System, to scale, on a dry lakebed — miles and miles across with Earth at the scale of a marble

  2. 2
    jawa says:

    Thank you for the very interesting post and for the timely reflection from the Scriptures.
    Apocalypse 22:21

  3. 3
    daveS says:

    This is very cool. Students at a nearby school did a similar project where the sun was represented by a circle (or part of a circle) drawn on the floor of the main building. The planets were represented by things like baseballs, marbles, etc, all to scale. You had to walk out to the football field and beyond to find all the planets.

  4. 4
    jawa says:

    Your quoting Psalm 19 from the KJV reminded me of a popular song that quoted Psalms 137 and 19:14. I think the song was composed and performed originally by Jamaican musicians in the early 1970s and popularized in Europe by a German-Caribbean group in the late 1970s. They performed that song behind the iron curtain in Moscow in 1978 and again in the Intervision festival in Sopot, Poland, in 1979.
    Back then I had no idea what the lyrics meant or where it was originally from. I was literally an ignoramus by all standards.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    Jawa, By the Rivers of Babylon, Here is Boney M, 1979 at the Sopot Festival: u/d to include introduction. And here is 1978, I am not sure if that is Moscow Liz Mitchell is lead singer, with her strong Jamaican accent being part of the impact. KF

    PS: The Psalm, KJV of course. There are so many layers in the performances that it is hard to count:

    Psalm 137 King James Version (KJV)

    137 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

    2 We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

    3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

    4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

    AND . . .

    Ps 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

  6. 6
    daveS says:

    Somewhat related: The Earth and the Moon to scale is vastly different than how many of us picture it. I’ve seen this several times and I’m always surprised.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, a reminder of scale, and that continues down to the sparseness of the atom. KF

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related note:

    May 2020 – “For someone to scientifically establish that the earth is indeed in motion, you must first have some type of framework and/or grid in which to demarcate the motion of the earth in the universe. Currently, people tell the story, as was told above, that the “Earth moves about the sun”,,, “The sun itself is in motion around the Milky Way. The Milky Way, furthermore, is moving with respect to the Local Group and the local supercluster.”, and then the story of the earth moving in the universe is usually just left at that ending point of the earth moving relative to superclusters.,,,

    Particularly this:

    To further empirically establish humanity’s centrality in the universe in particular, in the following video physicist Neil Turok states that ““So we can go from 10 to the plus 25 to 10 to the minus 35. Now where are we? Well the size of a living cell is about 10 to the minus 5. Which is halfway between the two. In mathematical terms, we say it is the geometric mean. We live in the middle between the largest scale in physics,,, and the tiniest scale [in physics].”

    “So we can go from 10 to the plus 25 to 10 to the minus 35. Now where are we? Well the size of a living cell is about 10 to the minus 5. Which is halfway between the two. In mathematical terms, we say it is the geometric mean. We live in the middle between the largest scale in physics,,, and the tiniest scale [in physics].”
    – Neil Turok as quoted at the 14:40 minute mark
    The Astonishing Simplicity of Everything – Neil Turok Public Lecture – video (12:00 minute mark, we live in the geometric mean, i.e. the middle, of the universe)

    The following interactive graph, gives very similar ‘rough ballpark’ figures, of 10 ^27 and 10-35, to Dr. Turok’s figures.

    The Scale of the Universe

    Whereas more recently Dr. William Demski, in the following graph, gives a more precise figure of 8.8 x 10^26 M for the observable universe’s diameter, and 1.6 x 10^-35 for the Planck length which is the smallest length possible.

    Magnifying the Universe

    Dr. Dembski’s more precise interactive graph points out that the smallest scale visible to the human eye (as well as the size of a human egg) is at 10^-4 meters, which ‘just so happens’ to be directly in the exponential center, and/or geometric mean, of all possible sizes of our physical reality. This is very interesting for the limits to human vision (as well as the size of the human egg) could have, theoretically, been at very different positions rather than directly in the exponential middle and/or the geometric mean. Needless to say, this empirical finding directly challenges, if not directly refutes, the assumption of the Copernican Principle.

  9. 9
    daveS says:

    Also a reminder of how risky the moon landings were, with 1960’s technology no less.

    SpaceX will be sending two astronauts into orbit Wednesday. That is, if Elon Musk doesn’t have another twitter meltdown before then and shut it all down.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, a front of the cold war: civilisational leadership; the answer to the Sputnik shock. Hence significance of the Apollo 8 reading from Genesis as they orbited the moon at Christmas, 1968. KF

  11. 11
    daveS says:

    It’s quite remarkable to see the situation we and the Ruskies find ourselves in today. Perhaps not what we expected 50 years ago.

  12. 12
    jawa says:

    The town where Copernicus resided and did some astronomical observations.

  13. 13
    jawa says:

    KF @4:

    Thank you for the comment and the links.

    Yes, the strong Jamaican accent was a hit behind the iron curtain. But generally the colorful musical show those singers were able to put together was quite an entertainment for Eastern Europeans used to more… can’t think of a word… presentations?
    Wasn’t one of those singers from Monserrat?

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    Jawa, that i simply didn’t know but just checked the MNI side: Maizie Williams is from the South here. The late Bobby Farrell is from Aruba but has a Montserrat name [cf. current Premier], which fits with known migration patterns. Knowing how closely families here are interconnected, it would not surprise me to see the Montserrat network as a background influence in creating the group. Barrett is a typical Jamaican name, and Wikipedia confirms that for Marcia. Liz Mitchell is obviously Jamaican.. There is a rich Montserrat music tradition and there are connexions to core pop culture including Air Studios. Jamaica’s music traditions need no discussion. The music speaks for itself, and the group would have made an impact at the time Caribbean talent was hitting the world stage. KF

  15. 15
    bornagain77 says:

    While reflecting on the actual scale of the solar system, that makes the following finding all the more remarkable.

    Rare Planetary System BY HUGH ROSS – JUNE 12, 2017
    Excerpt: Thanks in large part to research on extrasolar planets, astronomers also know that every planet in the solar system fulfills a key role in making advanced life possible on Earth. Two Brazilian astronomers showed that even tiny adjustments in the orbits of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune would prove catastrophic for life in our solar system.5 Regions beyond the precise orbital positions of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune abound in destructive mean motion resonances. As it is, Uranus is close to a 7:1 resonance with Jupiter (where Jupiter would make exactly 7 orbits around the Sun for every single orbit of Uranus), a 2:1 resonance with Neptune, and a 3:1 resonance with Saturn. Meanwhile, Jupiter and Saturn are very close to 5:2 resonance. If any of the solar system gas giant planets’ orbital positions were to shift ever so slightly, that shift would destabilize the orbit of one or more of the eight planets in the solar system with catastrophic consequences for a long history of life on Earth.
    Three Canadian astronomers further demonstrated that the orbital positions of Venus, Earth, and Mars must be fine-tuned so as to break up mean motion resonances that could be damaging for life on Earth. They showed that even the orbital features of the Earth-Moon system must be fine-tuned for this purpose.6 The Earth-Moon system suppresses a resonance in Venus’ orbit that is generated from the orbital patterns of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Unless the Earth-Moon system is configured the way it is, both Venus’ and Mercury’s orbits would destabilize and generate destructive chaos throughout the inner solar system.
    Every planet in our solar system and Earth’s Moon contribute to making advanced life possible on Earth. The solar system’s array of eight planets must be exactly the way it is. Have you thanked God today for Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune?

    “You might also think that these disparate bodies are scattered across the solar system without rhyme or reason. But move any piece of the solar system today, or try to add anything more, and the whole construction would be thrown fatally out of kilter. So how exactly did this delicate architecture come to be?”
    R. Webb – Unknown solar system 1: How was the solar system built? – New Scientist – 2009

    Is the Solar System Stable? By Scott Tremaine – 2011
    Excerpt: So what are the results? Most of the calculations agree that eight billion years from now, just before the Sun swallows the inner planets and incinerates the outer ones, all of the planets will still be in orbits very similar to their present ones. In this limited sense, the solar system is stable. However, a closer look at the orbit histories reveals that the story is more nuanced. After a few tens of millions of years, calculations using slightly different parameters (e.g., different planetary masses or initial positions within the small ranges allowed by current observations) or different numerical algorithms begin to diverge at an alarming rate. More precisely, the growth of small differences changes from linear to exponential:,,,
    As an example, shifting your pencil from one side of your desk to the other today could change the gravitational forces on Jupiter enough to shift its position from one side of the Sun to the other a billion years from now. The unpredictability of the solar system over very long times is of course ironic since this was the prototypical system that inspired Laplacian determinism.
    Fortunately, most of this unpredictability is in the orbital phases of the planets, not the shapes and sizes of their orbits, so the chaotic nature of the solar system does not normally lead to collisions between planets. However, the presence of chaos implies that we can only study the long-term fate of the solar system in a statistical sense, by launching in our computers an armada of solar systems with slightly different parameters at the present time—typically, each planet is shifted by a random amount of about a millimeter—and following their evolution. When this is done, it turns out that in about 1 percent of these systems, Mercury’s orbit becomes sufficiently eccentric so that it collides with Venus before the death of the Sun. Thus, the answer to the question of the stability of the solar system—more precisely, will all the planets survive until the death of the Sun—is neither “yes” nor “no” but “yes, with 99 percent probability.”

    Even the tiny ‘marble size’ of the earth is found to be essential for life on Earth:

    Existence Itself Is a Miracle – Oct. 2014
    Excerpt: “For instance, if the earth were slightly larger, it would of course have slightly more gravity. As a result, methane and ammonia gas, which have molecular weights of sixteen and seventeen respectively, would remain close to the surface of the earth. Since we can’t breathe methane or ammonia because of their toxicity, we would die.
    If Earth were slightly smaller, water vapor would not stay close to the planet’s surface, but would instead dissipate into the atmosphere. Obviously, without water we couldn’t exist.”
    Eric Metaxus

    As well, the universe has to be the immense size that it is or, again, no life would be possible,

    Evidence for Belief in God – Rich Deem
    Excerpt: Isn’t the immense size of the universe evidence that humans are really insignificant, contradicting the idea that a God concerned with humanity created the universe? It turns out that the universe could not have been much smaller than it is in order for nuclear fusion to have occurred during the first 3 minutes after the Big Bang. Without this brief period of nucleosynthesis, the early universe would have consisted entirely of hydrogen. Likewise, the universe could not have been much larger than it is, or life would not have been possible. If the universe were just one part in 10^59 larger, the universe would have collapsed before life was possible. Since there are only 10^80 baryons in the universe, this means that an addition of just 10^21 baryons (about the mass of a grain of sand) would have made life impossible. The universe is exactly the size it must be for life to exist at all.

    Here is a more comprehensive list of the many parameters that must be met in order for various types of life to be possible on Earth:

    Linked from Appendix C from Dr. Ross’s book, ‘Why the Universe Is the Way It Is’;
    Probability Estimates for the Features Required by Various Life Forms:
    Requirements to sustain bacteria for 90 days or less:
    Probability for occurrence of all 501 parameters approx. 10-614
    dependency factors estimate approx. 10^-303
    longevity requirements estimate approx. 10^22
    Probability for occurrence of all 501 parameters approx. 10^-333
    Maximum possible number of life support bodies in observable universe approx. 10^22
    Thus, less than 1 chance in 10^311 exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracles.

    Requirements to sustain unicellar life for three billion year:
    Probability for occurrence of all 676 parameters approx. 10^-859
    dependency factors estimate approx. 10^-303
    longevity requirements estimate approx. 10^22
    Probability for occurrence of all 676 parameters approx. 10^-578
    Maximum possible number of life support bodies in observable universe approx. 10^22
    Thus, less than 1 chance in 10^556 exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracle

    Requirements to sustain intelligent physical life:
    Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters approx. 10^-1333
    dependency factors estimate approx. 10^-324
    longevity requirements estimate approx. 10^45
    Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters approx. 10^-1054
    Maximum possible number of life support bodies in observable universe approx. 10^22
    Thus, less than 1 chance in 10^1032 exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracle

    As Eric Metaxas noted in the most down-loaded article from the Wall Street Journal at that time,

    Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God
    The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone? – By ERIC METAXAS – Dec. 24, 2014
    Excerpt: Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life —every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart.
    Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.
    Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?

    And as Eric Metaxas also noted in his book ‘MIracles’

    “Reason and science compels us to see what previous generations could not: that our existence is an outrageous and astonishing miracle, one so startlingly and perhaps so disturbingly miraculous that it makes any miracle like the parting of the Red Sea pale in such insignificance that it almost becomes unworthy of our consideration, as though it were something done easily by a child, half-asleep. It is something to which the most truly human response is some combination of terror and wonder, of ancient awe, and childhood joy.”
    Eric Metaxas – Miracles – pages 55-56


    Proverbs 3:19
    By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place;

  16. 16
    Seversky says:

    Much as I love Star Trek and Star Wars, few, if any, sci-fi movies and TV shows capture a sense of the scale of space. They make it seem far too small and cozy. In fact, the only one that made that impression on me at a visceral level was 2001: A Space Odyssey in the section on the Discovery mission to Jupiter. For some reason, I could almost feel what it would be like to be where there was almost nothing above, below or around you for billions of miles. Just a cold, dark, airless void on an unfathomable scale, swept by invisible, deadly radiation and filled with millions of stars, the closest of which is so far away that we ourselves cannot reach it within a human lifetime given current technology. The size of our galaxy beyond, let alone the billions of others stretching out to the cosmic horizon, is simply unimaginable. If all of that was really just made for us, it does seem somewhat extravagant.

  17. 17
    bornagain77 says:

    as to: “If all of that was really just made for us, it does seem somewhat extravagant.”

    And yet, your subjective theological musings about what God should or shouldn’t do aside, that is exactly what the scientific evidence says happened.,,, See links in posts 8 and 15.

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    Sev, God is lord of Hosts. It’s his style. KF

  19. 19
    jawa says:

    As Dr John Lennox has said, we don’t worship any gods of the gaps, but the God of the whole show. The first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the OT and the first few verses of the first chapter of the fourth book of the NT state it clearly that God made the whole enchilada and the whole nine yards. Literally everything. And He did it His way. We weren’t around to be consulted. 🙂

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