A Sense of Scale: The Solar System

Since my last few posts have been scientific in nature, I thought I would continue the theme with a look at scale; specifically the scale of our Solar System. In one of my previous posts, Walk the Solar System, I looked at a scale model representation of the distances in the Solar System (see that post for appropriate links and resources). For this post I want to look at and get a sense for relative object sizes. UPDATE: I have written another post relating to relative sizes: A Sense of Scale: The Bodies of the Solar System. Check it out!

The first images show a progression of the smaller planets (although, Pluto shouldn’t really be included, should it?) through our star, the Sun, and then to other stars for stellar size comparison. These images were stolen from Wind Scraps (and she got them from a friend, so I really have no idea who made them or who they belong to…). Click the image to see the larger and clearer versions.

Here we start with the smallest planets (er… and a dwarf planet). The smallest object is Pluto, the newly described dwarf planet (see my blog posts: 134340 Pluto and Pluto is not a Planet for more info on Pluto’s recent developments). The other objects are the four closest planets to our Sun: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. They are also referred to as terrestrial plantes because of their rocky composition.

This next image shows our original five planets (… well you know what i mean) compared to the four outer gas giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. All four of our gaseous planets carry a planetary ring system to some extent.

The third image is the last that is limited to our Solar System. This is a size comparison between our eight planets, Pluto, and the Sun (which is the proper name for our star, the generic term). The Sun is a G2V type star on the main sequence and it accounts for nearly 99% of the mass in our system. Like the planets, the Sun also rotates: it completes one revolution in every 28 days (actually the equator spins faster and the poles slower than that).

The fourth and fifth images compare our sun’s size to other stars. The white Sirius is the brightest star in our night sky and in the constellation Canis Major. Pollux is a bright star in the constellation Gemini and is one of the twin’s heads. Pollux has been confirmed to have a planet with about 2.3 Jupiter masses orbiting around it. Arcturus is in the constellation Boötes and is some 37 light years away.

Here we have our final progression in sizes. Rigel is the brightest star in the constellation Orion (the lower right side). Aldebaran is the bull’s eye in Taurus. Studies have also shown that there is either a very large planet (about 11 times the mass of Jupiter) or a dim brown dwarf that accompanies Aldebaran. Betelgeuse is a red supergiant in the constellation Orion (the left hand shoulder). Antares resides in the constellation Scorpius and is one of the largest stars known - it would more than fill up our solar system all the way out to Jupiter’s orbit!

I also wanted to show two more images that are similar to the first set but also include some of the other small objects in our Solar System. These were stolen from this page. Both are clickable for larger versions.

Any questions? For some very interesting links relating to scale, see my resources below!

Blog posts: 134340 Pluto and Pluto is not a Planet for info on the decision to change Pluto’s definition from a planet to a dwarf planet.
Wikipedia - The Solar System
Scale Comparisons of the Major Heavenly Objects of our Solar System
Scale of the Solar System
A Scale Model of the Solar System - a cool Java applet.
A Sense of Scale - a cool graphical representation of scale comparisons.
Wikipedia - Orders of Magnitude - Length comparisons with real world examples.
Powers of Ten - Remember that classic film? Here is their website!

Categories: Science Tags:
  1. August 27th, 2006 at 23:01 | #1

    A “random act of verbiage” on my part: telling you that you’re horribly cute (if that is indeed you on the right sidebar). :-)

    Sorry, just had to do it!

    Take care,

  2. August 28th, 2006 at 00:22 | #2

    Hehe, well I can honestly say that is a first! Thank you very much, I am flattered! :)

  3. August 28th, 2006 at 09:37 | #3

    Great post, Matt! It’s amazing how difficult it was to keep the sense of scale as I read. I kept having to go back and remind myself of the proportions; otherwise, it became to overwhelming to imagine.

  4. August 28th, 2006 at 14:41 | #4

    Okay, weird. I was looking at those Friday.

  5. Becky
    August 28th, 2006 at 15:17 | #5

    I also like this post. I’ve always been interested in the planets and our solar system. I’m sad that Pluto was demoted, though. :( Thanks for the info man!

  6. August 28th, 2006 at 20:23 | #6

    Scale really is an amazing thing. Makes me feel pretty small and wonder and the greatness of God!

    Heh, Kristin, I guess God is trying to speak to you… not really sure what, but apparently it has to do it the planets. Maybe He wants you to take up astrology… heh… or not.

  7. August 28th, 2006 at 20:40 | #7

    I was thinking it was more along the lines of perspective, but maybe astrology is the answer.

  8. August 28th, 2006 at 22:40 | #8

    Eh, 6 of one half dozen of the other.

  9. R.M.Sivilic
    November 9th, 2006 at 23:26 | #9

    Why stop at the size of stars. Why not continue from the solar system to the galaxy, to the universe, and onward through the polyverse.
    An applicable “Star trek” quote: “Through all the billions of stars and galaxies and of things we still can’t imagine, there is still one of each of us to ponder the unponderable.

  10. wayne
    March 3rd, 2007 at 15:14 | #10

    we are insignificant

  11. March 4th, 2007 at 19:02 | #11

    Fortunately, insignificant in size doesn’t equate to insignificant in importance. :)

  12. Anonymous
    October 30th, 2007 at 15:53 | #12

    i really like the solar system and the little/big pictures that u have on ur blog.ur cool matty jones!:)

    (L) YOUR TRAMS. jordan

  13. JOSL
    October 30th, 2007 at 16:01 | #13

    hi matthew jones…
    i was just wondering where did u get ur glasses cos i really like them, there so hot on u
    also where is that tall building behind u in the picture. lets met there some day!!

    love you always and forever. from JOSL

  14. Anonymous
    November 13th, 2007 at 23:31 | #14

    good things come in little pakages!!!!

  15. Splarkey
    December 18th, 2007 at 19:53 | #15

    wow, if you Capitalise the E on verbiage Random Acts of Verbiage becomes Random Acts of VerbiagE…. RAVE


  16. Anonymous
    January 7th, 2010 at 08:11 | #16

    i think that that was very intristing

  17. jamie
    January 7th, 2010 at 08:14 | #17

    it was interisting,cool and from my opioin (im not a good speller) Earth is relly tiny!

  1. December 18th, 2007 at 06:31 | #1
  2. September 1st, 2006 at 01:04 | #2
  3. April 11th, 2007 at 12:08 | #3
  4. November 11th, 2007 at 05:57 | #4