Distances Between Planets- Put Into Scale
Get a perspective on how great the distances are between planets with a frame of reference to compare it to.
When we talk of distances in outer space we use terms like light year and astronomical unit. While these are great for the scientist, how can the common individual get a perspective on how these distances compare? This paper will use the distance from the earth to the sun as 1 inch and show how large the distances are, in scale, from planets and stars.
The distance from the earth to the sun is about 93,000,000 miles. This distance is used for a standard for measurements within our solar system and called an astronomical unit or AU. Putting this unit to a scale of 1 AU = 1 inch the distance to the planets from the sun would be:
Mercury .39 inches
Venus .72 inches
Earth 1.0 inch
Mars 1.5 inches
Jupiter 5.2 inches
Saturn 9.6 inches
Uranus 19.3 inches
Neptune 30.2 inches
Pluto 39.9 inches
Using this scale given a 1 inch astronomical unit Pluto would be a little over 3 feet 3inches away (about 1 meter). This distance represents over 3.6 Billion miles! Using this same scale to map the nearest star to earth you would have to use a larger reference scale because the distances are so great. For instance it is approximately 4 light years to the nearest star to our solar system. Given that a light year is approximately 63,255 AU's the distance would be (63,255 x 4 or 253,022 AU's measured in this way a map using 1 inch = 1 AU. The first star on the map from earth would be 253,022 inches from earth on the map or 4 miles away! Consider you wanted to map our galaxy, making a map where the earth was on inch from the sun would require a piece of paper the size of the United States to show the "neighborhood" stars. Even then the problem of finding the earth would be enormous. Remember 93,000,000 miles is 1 inch, this would mean the earth would only be 43 millioneth's of an inch wide on this paper, or about the size of a large molecule. If drawn to scale the earth on this map would be invisible to the naked eye.
Using this scale it becomes clear how difficult if would be to map and navigate in space. Given a scale that would make the earth larger, the map would become bigger than the entire planet. Making a map with a greater scale the earth would disappear from even microscopic measurement.
The term lost in Space is easy to understand when you use these figures. No proportion or scale is possible as a realistic and accurate measure of distances in space. In simple terms the numbers are too astronomical!