How big is the solar system?

Have you ever tried to explain to your kids how big the solar system is? It can be difficult. Designer Josh Worth found that out while trying to explain the distances to his 5-year-old daughter:

“I kept trying to describe the distance using metaphors like, ‘If the earth was the size of a golf ball, then Mars would be across the soccer field,’ etc., but I realized I didn’t really know much about these distances, besides the fact that they were really large and hard to understand.”

Josh decided to do something about it and designed a web experience that showed the distances based on a scale where the moon is the size of one pixel.  He did an amazing job creating a web experience that shows how big the solar system is. But be prepared to scroll (a lot). At first, I was astonished at the distance from the Sun to Mercury, and then realized that distance is trivial compared to the distances between most planets.  Luckily, Josh includes interesting facts and tidbits to keep you engaged as you scroll.  For instance, it would take about 7 months to get to Mars in a spaceship from the Earth, a distance that would require “about 2000 feature-length movies to occupy that many waking hours.”

I have encountered other attempts to show the size of the solar system, but none of them conveyed the scale this well.  The biggest challenge will be getting your kids to sit through the entire experience.

To help your children learn more about the solar system, here are two LearningLiftoff.com learning activities:

In this 3rd Grade Science Learning Activity: Eclipses your child can learn the difference between a Lunar and Solar eclipse.

In this 6th-8th Grade Science Learning Activity: An Earth’s Year your child can watch the Earth as it rotates the sun and follow it’s night and day cycles as well as the changes in seasons.

Photo courtesy of NASA

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