Alright, this one’s a doozy.

After the reasonable popularity of last week’s scale picture that illustrated the distance between the Earth and the Moon, I just had to take things to the next logical level. Today I’ve reduced the scale, and increased the image size dramatically, to represent one astronomical unit (AU), or the distance between the earth and the Sun.*

So allow me to just say ahead of time that I apologize if this post breaks anyone’s computer. I’m not a web-savvy dude (note the use of Posterous instead of WordPress) so I’m not sure what nightmares could potentially be created by posting a 500 x 284,049 pixel image on the web. I tried to split the image into parts, compress it to crap, and repeat the areas of blank space where I could to mitigate any potential problems.


I also realize that this down scrolling visual device, one that worked so well on the moon example, strains its usefulness here. You have to scroll down for so long that I can envision people grabbing the thingy in the bar on the right and simply pulling right down to the bottom of the page, negating the model’s illustrative power.**

But try not to, at least for a while. Try scrolling down using your mouse wheel or touchpad. If it took you just over 8 minutes to reach the bottom, you’d be travelling through the model approximately at the speed of light.

I had a thought while working on this today, the kind of thought that always gives me pause. At this scale, and indeed at scales much smaller, there’s almost no difference between a bacterium and a blue whale.

01 spacer venus spacer spacer spacer mercury spacer spacer sunseg2_02

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*The mean distance of course. Planets orbit in ellipses. I’m torn between not including that fact because it’s obvious, vs. not wanting to be corrected.

**I also wanted to add some yardsticks along the way, like counting off the light-minutes between the Earth and the Sun, but to be honest this image was straining the abilities of my laptop and Adobe Photoshop all at once. (You did see Venus & Mercury though, right?) It actually took a few tricks even to save the thing out and get it online.

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