Scale model of the solar system built in Nevada lakebed

Remember how hard it was to make that tiny model of the solar system for your grade school’s science fair? Imagine making a diorama on the scale of miles instead of centimeters and creating a scale version of the solar system large enough to cover a seven mile stretch of desert.

According to Wired and Popular Science, that’s exactly what a pair of men named Alex Gorosh and Wylie Overstreet did as part of a new project called To Scale: The Solar System. In order to fully explain just how massive our local neighborhood of planets, comets and other objects really is, the two men went to a dry lakebed in Nevada to construct their massive model. Check out the clip here.

The project took more than 36 hours and required them to build their model over a seven mile stretch of flat ground, but ultimately they were able to construct a model of the inner planets to a scale of 1 astronomical unit (AU, or the distances from the Earth to the Sun) to 176 meters, then did likewise with the outer planets, putting the scope of the solar system into perspective.

Afterwards, Gorosh and Overstreet drove around the orbits of the planets at night using lights to reveal the scale of each planet’s revolution around the sun. They recorded their efforts along the way, and their work can be viewed in a seven minute video posted online here (and embedded above).

To give a better idea of the scope of their project, Gorosh and Overstreet created a scale model of the planet Mercury which was 224 feet away from the mock sun, while Venus and Earth were 447 feet and 579 feet away, respectively, Fox News reported Friday. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune were 0.57 miles, 1.1 miles, 2.1 miles and 3.5 miles away from the sun, the website added.

Oh, and they used a marble to represent Earth.

Kind of makes you feel rather insignificant, doesn’t it?

“What the project really gets at is just how important scale is,” io9 explained. “In order to make a diagram of our solar system easy to read, one with to-scale orbits has inflated planet size. Only with a model [like Overstreet’s and Gorosh’s]… can you see just how massive the distances are.”


Image Credit: Screenshot/Vimeo