The universe, as Douglas Adams so memorably explained, is big. Really big.
But so are the things inside it — even objects like the Solar System, which on a galactic scale are absolutely minuscule.
A new project by Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh, spotted by Sploid, sought to explain just how vast our local neighbourhood of planets, dwarf planets, asteroids and comets really is, by building the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits. To do it they had to go to a dry lakebed in Nevada, and first build a model of the inner planets to a scale of 1 astronomical unit (AU, or distance from the Sun to Earth) of 176 metres. They then repeated this for the outer planets, and drove around each of the paths at night with a light.
The result is a time-lapse video that shows each of the orbits in motion, to scale, for what the film-makers claim is the first time in the real world. They also produced a seven minute film which is poignant, precise and inspiring, putting our solar backyard in true perspective for the first time.
Of course other models of the Solar System — or bits of it — do exist to scale. On the web there are several, perhaps most notably this illustration which represents the distances between the planets if the Moon were only the size of one pixel (get ready to scroll, a lot).
The film-makers have more details about the project at their respective websites, but WIRED encourages you to watch the whole film — it’s quite spectacular. Not unlike the Solar System itself, in fact.