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Discover the Universe is offered by the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Canadian Astronomical Society in collaboration with the Centre for Research in Astrophysics of Quebec.

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Scale Model of Solar System

The solar system is so large that it can’t be shown to scale on a standard image. If the planet sizes are shown to scale, then the distances will be too large to fit in the image. On the other hand, if the distances are to scale then the objects will be too small to be visible.

The best way to understand the true dimensions of the solar system is to create a scale model. Use the tool below to visualize the solar system at various scales.

Instructions

  • Choose the size of the Sun you want in your model in STEP 1. The dimensions of the other objects and their distances will be calculated automatically.

  • You can have your solar system displayed on the map and centred where you want, such as your house or school. The orbits of the different objects will be displayed according to the colour code

  • Enter the latitude and longitude you want to use in STEP 2, or drag the map to where you want. Then click "draw orbits" to display them on the map, under STEP 3.

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 3:

Note that the orbits of the planets in the solar system are not perfect circles, but ellipses. The model here simplifies this aspect and displays a circle based on the average distance between the planet and the Sun.

We thank the Exploratorium for the inspiration through their webpage "Build a Solar System”. Adapted by Dr. Jennifer West from the Dunlap Institute at the University of Toronto.