Most charts of the Solar System we enjoy are terrible lies.
This is because they’re not to scale: It’s easier to clump everything together so that all of the planets and stars fit neatly into an image stretching only a few hundred pixels. Even charts released by organisations like the European Space Agency or NASA are commonly guilty of this sin.
But James Worth, an artist and web designer, has built a scroll-able map of the solar system that’s scaled according to the real distances between the planets.
And “tediously” is an understatement.
The diameter of the moon is about the distance from New York to Los Angeles. In Worth’s scale model it’s only one pixel wide:
With this kind of scale, you’d need 886 computer screens lined up side-by-side to see the whole map of the Solar System at once. Or to put it another way, if you printed Worth’s map, the sheet of paper would span 1.5 football fields and Earth would be invisible.
“Our brains aren’t meant to handle empty,” Worth writes in one of the (many) empty patches of screen you have to scroll through to get to the end.
And he’s right — it’s hard not feel a little crazy scrolling through the huge swaths of blackness.
Even going from Earth to our neighbour Mars takes a lot of scrolling. You can see the kilometers tick by at the bottom:
But when you think about it, most of the universe is empty space.
“Emptiness is actually everywhere,” Worth writes. “It’s something like 99.9999999999999999999958% of the known universe.”
Even a single atom is mostly empty space. If an atom were about the size of your arm span, then the nucleus at the center would be smaller than the width of a human hair, and the even smaller electrons would be whizzing around the empty space out to your finger tips.
It’s impossible to wrap the mind around how huge space is. And it’s unlikely any of us will ever experience it firsthand. But scrolling through this map can give us a little inkling of just how mind-blowingly huge the universe is.
Worth stops the map at Pluto (which humanity just visited for the first time ever!).
Good thing, too — you’d have to scroll through another 6,771 maps of the same length before you came across anything else.
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