Published: Jan. 20, 2022

 James NegusFrom Sky & Telescope magazine: The University of Colorado, Boulder, has unveiled a 1:10 billion scale-model solar system with an interactive sound experience.

Have you ever longed to experience a planetary voyage through the solar system? Or to travel from the Sun from Jupiter? The University of Colorado, Boulder (CU Boulder) has just unveiled a 1:10 billion scale-model solar system that allows you to do just that.

The new model supersedes an older model installed in 1987. That original model, which the university dedicated in May 1987 to Challenger astronaut and CU Boulder alumnus Ellison Onizuka, served as the inspiration for the “Voyage Mark I” scale model solar system permanently installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Built by the Voyage National Program, that model was also 1:10 billion in scale and housed the scaled Sun atop a black granite pyramid. 

Now, CU is leading the way with the world’s first installation of the more materials-efficient, and therefore cost-effective, “Voyage Mark II” model. This updated model is intended to serve as a prototype for affordable installations around the globe.

The new model’s Sun, about the size of a grapefruit, resides outside the university’s Fiske Planetarium and marks the beginning of the scale-model solar system. About 20 paces away is the model Earth — roughly the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen. Further out, at about 100 paces from the model Sun (past the model’s asteroid belt stanchion), one approaches the first gas giant, Jupiter — about the size of a marble. The scale model continues for about a third of a mile before reaching the dwarf planet Pluto. But it doesn’t end there! Beyond Pluto, a final stanchion resides at the scaled distance where the Voyager 1 spacecraft took the famous “pale blue dot” image on February 14, 1990. Read more…