Visualize the Scale of the Solar System with Drones and Football Fields

Caleb Kraft

Senior Editor for Make: I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity of the masses! My favorite thing in the world is sharing the hard work of a maker.

I'd always love to hear about what you're making, so send me an email any time at [email protected]

404 Articles

By Caleb Kraft

Senior Editor for Make: I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity of the masses! My favorite thing in the world is sharing the hard work of a maker.

I'd always love to hear about what you're making, so send me an email any time at [email protected]

404 Articles

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It can be very difficult to visualize the scale of the solar system. There are plenty of fascinating illustrations and videos out there, but often the gargantuan scales and immense distances make it hard to wrap your brain around. Even Mark Rober, who worked at NASA for years finds the concept difficult at times. To help battle that, Rober made this video where he uses real objects to scale on a football field in order to help you visualize the distances we are dealing with.

As an added bonus, Rober shows exaclty how far away this mysterious, recently discovered, 9th planet orbits. Clever use of drones allows Rober to place a point on the ground, then shift the view by ascending while holding the scale item. We can see the distance to the “sun” on the horizon and really get a feel for how far away it is, with familiar references for scale.

The objects that Rober uses to convey the scale are fun an interesting. If our sun is a soccer ball, then Mercury is a fleck of pepper, Venus is the head of a pin, Earth is also the head of a pin, the Moon is a grain of salt, Mars is a fleck of pepper as well, Jupiter is a grape, Saturn is a smaller grape, Uranus is a pea, Neptune is also a pea, and the mysterious 9th planet is also a pea.

Rober points out that there is a lot of information here. You can see the great distances and comparative scales of our solar system fairly clearly, but if you only take away one lesson, let it be this: If the Sun is at the endzone, Earth would be at the 26 yard line.