The Size of Our Solar System

The actual size of the universe is basically immeasurable as it is constantly expanding. But even if we could measure it, our human brains wouldn’t actually be able to understand how big it really is. Our solar system is roughly 122 AU, an AU being the distance between the Earth and the sun. This is 11,000,000,000 miles. Still, even the solar system is too big to grasp.

The average distance from the Earth to the Moon is about 238,900 miles. This seems better to work with, but as you see from the picture above, you can fit all of the planets in the solar system into this distance. The chart below states each of the planets average diameters.

 Planet Diameter (mi.) Mercury 3,032 Venus 7,520.8 Mars 4,212 Jupiter 86,881.4 Saturn 72,367.4 Neptune 30,599 Uranus 31,518

Even the closest thing in the universe to us is an unbelievable distance away. If you add up all of these diameters you get 236,130.6 miles, so even with all the planets there, you still have room for Pluto!

1. · January 21, 2019

Our solar system IS really massive. The fact that the distance between the earth and the moon is enough to fit all of the planets AND then some is truly astounding. That being said, I appreciated the image you used as well as the listing of diameters for each planet. It is crazy to think that just Jupiter alone takes up 1/3th of the distance between the earth and the moon.

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2. · January 21, 2019

The image and listing of diameters for each planet also shows how much bigger the gas giants are than the rest of the planets. In particular, Jupiter and Saturn both have nearly ten times the diameter of Venus. And yet, the distance between the earth and moon would still fit over two and a half Jupiters!

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3. · January 21, 2019

Your post was very helpful in making me understand the distance between the moon and the Earth. The visual as well as the physical distances was a shocking display of the distance that the moon is from the Earth. If I can barely comprehend the distance between the Earth and the moon, I have no hope for wrapping my brain around the size of the solar system let alone galaxy or universe. It is helpful to keep this massive scale in mind when studying this semester.

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4. · January 31, 2019

From the TA: It is mind boggling to think that all the planets in our solar system could fit in the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

One of my favorite videos on grasping the scale of the universe is this video titled “Powers of Ten” from 1977: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fKBhvDjuy0

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