Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Solar System

As we were driving into Aroostook County we started seeing replicas of planets along the side of the road. I thought I had remembered seeing a TV show with these planets several years ago on (don’t laugh) Bill Nye the Science Guy.

What we were seeing is a 40-mile-long scale model of the Solar System.

We drove out to the University of Maine this afternoon to see the Sun.

The Sun was pretty disappointing because it is not all three-dimensional. All the planets are built as three-dimensional models. The actual size of the Sun, the planets, and their moons, and the distances between the various objects, are 93,000,000 times the size of the model. At this scale, one mile along US Route 1 equals the distance from the Earth to the Sun, known as an "astronomical unit.” The Sun is located at the Northern Maine Museum of Science on the campus of the University of Maine at Presque Isle. The model was constructed starting in 2000 without formal sponsors or grants, and essentially on a zero budget.

The model has recently seen the additions of two newly anointed dwarf planets, Ceres, Eris, as well as a second Pluto model. This updates the model in line with the current IAU/planet/dwarf planet/Plutoid controversy.

The sun model: 49′ 6″.

Some of it is three-dimensional:

The Sun at the second floor entry way.

Some of it is painted on the walls:

The Sun at the third floor, continuing the curve.

[The Sun is one out of billions of stars. It is the closest star to Earth. The Sun rotates once every 27 days. It is now a middle-aged star, meaning it is at about the middle of its life. It formed over four and a half billion years ago. It will keep shining for at least another five billion years.

The Sun’s surface is called the photosphere. The temperature of the photosphere is about 10,000° Fahrenheit. Its core is under its atmosphere. The temperature at the core, or very middle, is about 27 million° Fahrenheit.

The Sun’s diameter is about 870,000 miles wide. It is 109 times wider than Earth, and is 333,000 times heavier.]

Follow us down the solar system. Next stop, Mercury.

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