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We do not always realize how little dust we are in the vastness of the Universe. Thus, we observe our sun every day, like a small sphere in the sky, without really realizing the true size of this star. And for good reason: almost 150 million kilometers separate us! An astronomer, however, has managed to put things in perspective: he has been creating amazing animations for several years, including one in which all the objects in our solar system are represented on a scale.
Dr. James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist from the Japanese Space Agency (and former NASA researcher), made a short video in 2020 in which all the planets around us are presented in scale, in terms of size, rotation speed and inclination. The result allows you to have a completely different view of the world and the size of our planet looks really ridiculous next to the gas giants (much more compared to the Sun!). The video has already garnered over 15 million views on Twitter so far.
The smallest object in our solar system is the dwarf planet Ceres, located in the main asteroid belt. This object with a diameter of about 950 kilometers is therefore in contrast to Jupiter, the largest planet in our system, with a diameter of almost 140,000 kilometers (almost 11 times that of Earth). The relative sizes of each planet are well known. On the other hand, it is interesting to be able to compare their rotational speeds here.
A seductive perspective
Note that the relative distances are obviously not taken into account here, so that we can represent all the planets on one screen. As the animation progresses, revealing more and more objects from our solar system, we see that the Earth is one of the fastest rotating planets. Its rotation speed is very close to that of Mars. But we quickly realize that all the giant planets surpass it at this point!
While the Earth takes one day to complete one complete rotation, Neptune and Uranus rotate around their axis at 16 and 17 hours, respectively. But it is Jupiter who breaks all records, with an estimated spin period of about 9 hours and 55 minutes. not far behind is Saturn, with a period of rotation around 10:30.
We will also note the very strong inclination of the planet Uranus relative to the normal ecliptic: its axial inclination is about 97 °, its poles are thus alternately exposed to the Sun – for comparison, the axis of our planet is inclined about 23 °. According to experts, this extreme inclination was most likely caused by a collision with a young protoplanet.
At the end of the animation, it is obviously the Sun that stands out in the background, with a diameter of almost 1.4 million kilometers! A huge star compared to our very small planet, with a diameter of just over 12,700 km… If the dimensions of our star are already very impressive, however they remain very mediocre compared to the larger stars of our galaxy. For example, the star Mu Cephei, also called the Garnet star, located in the constellation of Cepheus, has a diameter over 1000 times larger than that of the Sun (equivalent to 1260 solar diameters exactly)!
Currently, another red supergiant holds the record for size: UY Scuti, located in the constellation Sobieski’s Shield. Its radius is about 1708 solar rays (almost 1.2 billion kilometers). We are definitely very few compared to these oversized objects…
Lots of videos to discover
Note that James O’Donoghue has already made many videos of our solar system on a scale. Earlier this year, he posted a video specifically depicting the sizes, rotational speeds and inclination — on a scale — of the planets in our solar system (including Pluto and Demeter). He points out that the planets probably had the same inclination in the beginning, but that impacts, tidal forces and / or planetary migration more or less reinforced this inclination later.
Earlier, the scientist had also made a video depicting the path of light in real time from Earth to the Moon, or even more impressive, the path of light in real time from the Sun to Earth, passing through Mercury and Venus . The video obviously lasts a little over eight minutes, which is the time it takes for sunlight to travel 149.6 million kilometers… A few weeks ago, it posted an even more instructive video, explaining the mechanism of the seasons, the solstices and of the equinoxes:
If it is relatively simple to represent each planet on a scale, the main problem remains to represent the distances. The expert explains that he is obliged to reduce the size of the Sun, not to take into account the relevant distances or to reduce the orbits in order to be able to represent everything on a screen in his animations. ” It is difficult to represent the actual size of the solar system, because space is mainly… space », he said in 2019 on his Twitter account. All these videos are no less impressive.
Source: YouTube / James O’Donoghue