Thursday, August 27, 2015

The size of space

Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space.
-Douglas Adams

Space is as infinite as we can imagine, and expanding this perspective is what adjusts humankind’s focus on conquering our true enemies, the formidable foes: ignorance and limitation. 
-Vanna Bonta

Today we have an interesting topic; How big is the solar system?

You might be familiar with maps of the solar system like this:
Classic view of solar system, out of scale.

But if you want to know really how big the solar system is, take a look at this map, with the moon the size of a pixel, and everything else to scale:
If you have 297 minutes, you can travel it at the speed of light.  Or, perhaps, 177,632,973,808.5 Blue Whales

Such misconceptions run rampant, as shown here:

Next, take a look at the 70's classic short scientific film: Powers of ten

For the more interactive of you, here's a fascinating scrollable scale from the planck length to the observable universe.  There's some interesting stuff in there, for example: A marathon is longer than Phobos.

So, yes.  Space is truly massive and almost empty.  Remember, any solar system is incredibly dense by cosmic standards.  Want to explore it yourself?  See Celestia  For a example of the challenges in spaceflight, take a look at Kerbal Space Program  If you are playing Kerbal Space Program and feeling a lack of challenge, try the Realism Overhaul modification.

Now that you know how big space is, you can see how many humans are in it right now.  And then watch this awe-inspiring video:

So, why all this preamble?  Because I'm going to start a series of posts on what would happen if a plane, a boat, a human, and a building were transported to every large body in the solar system.
Invaluable for this will be What If's posts Interplanetary Cessna and Extreme Boating

See you on the sun, with a 747, a condo, and a sailboat.

I was recently linked to by the blog Way Of The Dodo