Een rondje om het zonnestelsel

Hier word ik echt heel gelukkig van: twee filmmakers maken een compleet model van het zonnestelsel in de woestijn. Ongelooflijk om bij stil te staan: als de aarde een knikker is, staat de zon 176 meter verderop. Om het maar niet te hebben over de buitenste planeten.

To Scale: The Solar System from Wylie Overstreet on Vimeo.

(Stiekem word ik toch een beetje verdrietig om het feit dat Neptunus nu de buitenste planeet is.)

2 reacties op “Een rondje om het zonnestelsel

  1. Ik lees toevallig momenteel A Short History of Nearly Everything (ok, misschien niet zo toevallig, aangezien ik dat boek van jou gekregen heb) met daarin de volgende passage:

    “(…) space is extremely well named and rather dismayingly uneventful. Our solar system may be the liveliest thing for trillions of miles, but all the visible stuff in it – the Sun, the planets and their moons, the billion or so tumbling rocks of the asteroid belt, comets and other miscellaneous drifting detritus – fills less than a trillionth of the available space. You also quickly realize that none of the maps you have ever seen of the solar system was drawn remotely to scale. Most schoolroom charts show the planets coming one after the other at neighbourly intervals – the outer giants actually cast shadows over each other in many illustrations – but this is a necessary deceit to get them all on the same piece of paper. Neptune in reality isn’t just a little bit beyond Jupiter, it’s way beyond Jupiter – five times further from Jupiter than Jupiter is from us, so far out that receives only 3 per cent as much sunlight as Jupiter.

    Such are the distances, in fact, that it isn’t possible, in any practical terms, to draw the solar system to scale. Even if you added lots of fold-out pages to your textbooks or used a really long sheet of poster paper, you wouldn’t come close. On a diagram of the solar system to scale, with the Earth reduced to about the diameter of a pea, Jupiter would be over 300 metres away and Pluto would be two and a half kilometres distant (and about the size of a bacterium, so you wouldn’t be able to see it anyway). On the same scale, Proxima Centauri, our nearest star, would be 16,000 kilometres away. Even if you shrank down everything so that Jupiter was as small as the full stop at the end of this sentence, and Pluto was no bigger than a molecule, Pluto would still be over 10 metres away.

    So the solar system is really quite enormous. By the time we reach Pluto, we have come so far from the Sun – our dear, warm, skin-tanning, life-giving Sun – has shrunk to the size of a pinhead. It is little more than a bright star. In such lonely void you can begin to understand how even the most significant objects – Pluto’s moon, for example – have escaped attention. In this respect, Pluto has hardly been alone. Until the Voyager expeditions, Neptune was thought to have two moons; Voyager found six more. When I was a boy, the solar system was thought to contain thirty moons. The total now is at least ninety, about a third of which have been found in just the last ten years. The point to remember, of course, when considering the universe at large is that we don’t actually know what is in our own solar system.

    Now, the other thing you will notice as we speed past Pluto is that we are speeding past Pluto. If you check your itinerary, you will see that this a trip to the edge of our solar system, and I’m afraid we’re not there yet. Pluto may be the last object marked on schoolroom charts, but the system doesn’t end there. In fact, it isn’t even close to ending there. We won’t get to the solar system’s edge until we have passed through the Oort cloud, a vast celestial realm of drifting comets, and we won’t reach the Oort cloud for another – I’m sorry about this – ten thousand years. Far from marking the outer edge of the solar system, as those schoolroom maps so cavalierly imply, Pluto is barely one-fifty-thousandth of the way.”

    Machtig mooi boek. (En ja, in 2003 was Pluto nog een planeet.)

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