A model of the solar system – to scale?
The idea is not new. The size and scope of our solar system is nearly impossible to visualize without a true-to-scale model, and the Valente Project is not the first to hit on the idea of creating one on a grand scale. In fact, dozens of such models exist around the world! But despite the number of times it’s been tried, making a compelling model is challenging. We believe Planet Walk NYC will be the best such model ever made, and will be uniquely wonderful in a number of ways. Here are a few of the most notable features of the design, and what makes it different from others:
· Photorealistic models. Many scale models of the solar system represent the planets only as two-dimensional images, or in black and white, or in colors not found on the actual planets. The models of Planet Walk NYC will be based on true-color photographs from NASA probes and other spacecraft, in consultation with the actual scientists currently studying each body. This will result in models that approximate the views that only interplanetary spacecraft can see today.
· Moons. Most solar system models neglect moons entirely, or at best display Earth’s moon and a few isolated others. Planet Walk NYC will feature eighteen of the solar system’s major moons, each at the appropriate distance from the planet it orbits.
· Dwarf Planets. Unlike most other models, Planet Walk NYC will include dwarf planets Ceres and Pluto (with its moon Charon), and several newly-discovered dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt beyond Pluto.
· Shadows. Nearly all solar system models show their planets lit from all sides, even though no planet looks that way in reality. Planet Walk NYC will show each object with both a day and a night side, oriented correctly to the model of the Sun. This will illustrate the planets’ spatial relationship to the Sun; show how cities light up the night side of Earth; demonstrate the way that eclipses and transits work; and show off the beautiful, intricate shadows of Saturn’s rings.
· Orbital Duplicates. Although the primary experience of Planet Walk NYC will be a linear walk up Broadway and into the Bronx, the model will also include duplicates of some of the primary planets at other points in their orbits. This will result in additional models in Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens, broadening the reach of the model and reinforcing the concept of orbits. All in all, the model is planned to include nearly forty individual displays.
· Augmented Reality. In addition to the physical models, an accompanying mobile app will guide visitors’ way, allowing them to see from a distance where and how far the next model lies, and supplying a wealth of background information on the solar system and its planetary denizens. More dramatically, the app will allow viewers to explore three-dimensional digital views of the planets and moons, against the starry backdrop of the Milky way and distant galaxies.
· Light Speed. Finally, the scale of Planet Walk NYC allows pedestrians to experience the solar system at the speed of light! At the greatly reduced scale chosen for the model, light would travel only about 2½ mph, or a little more than a minute per NYC block; an easy walking pace. So the eight minutes it would take to walk from the model of the Sun in Battery Park to the model of the Earth at Exchange Alley is the same eight minutes it would take for sunlight to travel through space from the real Sun to the real Earth.
Here’s a mock-up of what the models of Saturn and its moons might look like, in Madison Square Park at 23rd Street and Broadway:
Saturn’s major moons – Mimas, Enceladus, Tethus, Dione, Rhea, Titan and Iapetus – are arranged according to the distance of their orbits around Saturn:
Each model is displayed within its own six-foot column, transparent on the upper half:\
Larger planets are housed in thick columns, with a conical interior base with information about the orb within, and lighting to illuminate the model’s colors and intricate detail:
Smaller planets and moons are housed in similar though thinner columns, with a slanted interior base: