Montreal Solar System

Incessantly curious Montrealer Trevor Kjorlien, aka Plateau Astro, has a scale model of the earth and the moon on his front-yard fence. His photo of it from his Patreon looks like this:

This is a great little guerrilla educational tool already, but, he says it leads to a common question: “How big is the Sun? Where is it?”.

This prompted me to contact him and ask if Montréal’s own Buckminster Fuller-designed geodesic dome, formerly the Expo 67 American Pavilion and now ‘The Biosphere’, would make a suitable sun. Not at the scale of his front-yard models, it turns out. At his front-yard scale, the sun would be about 6 meters across, and about 900 meters away from his tiny earth. The Bucky-ball would be a lot larger than his front yard would allow, at a 76 meter-diameter.

Trevor then sent me a map made with the aptly-named Solar System Scale Model Calculator with the 76-metre Biosphere at its sun, and the results are fascinating, largely because by scaling to a known size, it makes it clear just how utterly empty the solar system actually is.

It’s also satisfying to zoom in and see the solar system scaled onto something more familiar to people, like a city (click to explore):

I also feel obligated, when mentioning the Biosphere taking the place of a star, to also mention that the biosphere was once covered in clear plastic panels, which caught fire in maybe the most heavy metal way.

Which brings us to the other obvious sun substitute in Montréal, the rather sunny-looking Orange Julep. At 12 meters across, the Orange Julep is about exactly double the size the sun would be compared to his front-yard earth and moon, and also too far away. He was nice enough to generate a map of the solar system scaled to the Orange Julep sun.

Visit Plateau Astro for much more fun space content.

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