Starship Wondertree – Locarno Beach Solar System

On Wednesday we located the Sun and nine planets along Locarno Beach on Burrard Inlet, and then traveled from the Sun to Pluto.

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Locarno Beach Scale Model Solar System using Google Earth
This was a project of the Wondertree Learning Centre. There are no pictures with this article because most show some of our young students — and I don’t have permission from their parents to post images. It was a lovely day at the beach.

The plan was to place stakes in the sand for each planet. Attached to the stake would be a picture of the planet at the scale of our solar system along with a some interpretive material (in case members of the public were curious about this one-day event).

A couple of us went out after 10 AM to locate the planets: Pluto, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter.

By that time we were ready to establish the inner solar system (about noon), some of the learners had arrived and were already industriously digging a sand structure somewhere near the asteroid belt.

The Sun was a 500 mm beach ball. We taped it to the top of a stake attached to the wharf so that we could see it from the outer solar system.

From the Sun, it was easy to measure the distances to Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.

The group assembled close to the Sun and talked about our planned journey. It was to be a bit of a hike: Pluto, on this scale, is over 2 kilometers away.

The first discovery was that in our model, the speed of light is about 108 mm (about 4 inches) per second. So traveling at warp-one means taking a baby step every second.

We set up a mission control at the Earth — someone with a transceiver; and our Starship had 3 additional transceivers. We set out, traveling at several times the speed of light.

There seemed to be lots to talk about and explore as we walked. Even I was surprised that when we arrived at Uranus, we were only at the half-way point.

Eventually, as we approached Pluto, mission control arranged for teleportation from Pluto back to the school.

Here are the distances from the Sun to the planets:

Mercury: 21 m
Venus: 39 m
Earth: 54 m
Mars: 82 m
Jupiter: 280 m
Saturn: 513 m
Uranus: 1031 m
Neptune: 1616 m
Pluto: 2124 m

And the size of each planet on this scale:

Mercury: 1.7 mm
Venus: 4.3 mm
Earth: 4.5 mm
Mars: 2.4 mm
Jupiter: 50.1 mm
Saturn: 41.8 mm
Uranus: 16.8 mm
Neptune: 16.3 mm
Pluto: 0.8 mm

When we reached Pluto someone wanted to know the distance to the nearest star. That is Alpha Centauri; and on this scale it is over 14 thousand km away (that’s greater than the diameter of the real Earth).

[The image on this page was missing for a long time. I had posted it at a service run by called AllYouCanUpload. The faq promised that the image would be there ‘forever.’ When webshots was bought by American Greeting management deleted all of AllYouCanUpload pictures. I have found a copy of of the picture for this post but many on this blog have been lost.]


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