Astronomer makes amazing animations that show the true scale of our solar system

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We are not always aware of how little dust we are in the vastness of the universe. Thus, we observe our sun every day, like a little sphere in the sky, without really realizing the real size of this star. And with good reason: Nearly 150 million kilometers separate us! However, an astronomer has managed to put things in context: he has been creating amazing animations for several years, including one where all the objects in our solar system are represented in scale.

Dr. James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist from the Japanese space agency (and former NASA scientist), made a short video in 2020 where all the planets around us are shown in scale in terms of size, rotational speed and inclination. The result allows you to have a completely different view of the world, and the size of our planet seems really ridiculous next to the gas giants (so much more compared to the Sun!). The video has already garnered over 15 million views so far on Twitter.

The smallest object in our solar system is the dwarf planet Ceres, which is located in the main asteroid belt. This object, about 950 kilometers in diameter, is thus opposite Jupiter, the largest planet in our system, almost 140,000 kilometers in diameter (almost 11 times that of Earth). The relative sizes of each planet are quite well known; on the other hand, it is interesting here to be able to compare their rotational speeds.

A captivating perspective

Note that the relative distances are of course not taken into account here, in order to be able to represent all the planets on a single screen. As the animation progresses and reveals more and more objects from our solar system, we see that the Earth is one of the fastest rotating planets; its rotational speed is very close to Mars. But we quickly realize that all the giant planets are surpassing it at this point!

While Earth takes one day to complete a complete revolution, Neptune and Uranus rotate about their axes of 16 and 17 hours, respectively. But it is Jupiter that breaks all records, with an estimated rotation period of about 9 hours and 55 minutes; not far behind is Saturn, with a rotation period of about 10:30.

We will also notice in passing the very strong inclination of the planet Uranus in relation to the normal of the ecliptic: its axial inclination is approx. 97 °, its poles are thus exposed alternately facing the Sun – for comparison, our planet’s axis is tilted approx. 23 °. According to experts, this extreme inclination was probably caused by a collision with a young protoplanet.

At the end of the animation, it is clearly the Sun that stands out in the background with its diameter of almost 1.4 million kilometers! A huge star compared to our very small planet, just over 12,700 km in diameter … If the dimensions of our star are already very impressive, they still remain very modest compared to the largest stars in our galaxy. For example, the star Mu Cephei, also called the star Garnet, located in the constellation Cepheus, has a diameter more than 1000 times larger than the Sun (that corresponds to 1260 solar diameters exactly)!

Currently, another red supergiant has the size record: UY Scuti, located in the constellation Sobieski’s Shield. Its radius measures approximately 1708 solar radii (almost 1.2 billion kilometers). We are certainly very little compared to these oversized items …

A lot of videos to discover

Note that James O’Donoghue has already made many videos of our solar system in scale. Earlier this year, he especially posted a video depicting the sizes, rotational speeds and inclination – in scale – of the planets in our solar system (including Pluto and Ceres). He points out that the planets probably had the same inclination in the beginning, but that impacts, tidal forces and / or planetary travel more or less reinforced this inclination thereafter.

Earlier, the scientist had also made a video illustrating the path of light in real time from Earth to the Moon, or even more strikingly, the real-time path of light from the Sun to Earth passing through Mercury and Venus. video apparently lasts a little over eight minutes, which is the time it takes for sunlight to travel 149.6 million kilometers … A few weeks ago, he published an even more didactic video explaining the mechanism behind the seasons, solar eclipses and the equinox:

If it is relatively simple to represent each planet in scale, the main problem remains to represent the distances. The specialist explains that he is obliged to reduce the size of the Sun, not to take into account the relative distances or to reduce the orbits in order to be able to represent everything on a single screen in his animations. ” It’s difficult to represent the actual size of the solar system because space is mostly … space », he said in 2019 on his Twitter account. All of these videos are no less impressive.

Source: YouTube / James O’Donoghue

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