Life on Mars?
Biographies of the
Compare the Planets
Relative Size of the Solar System
How far apart are the planets, relatively speaking? It's easy to get lost in the long train of zeros that follow them. Here are some ways to visualize the relative distances of the planets from the Sun and one another.
Copyright © 2000 by Gary Chan and Matthew McDermott. All rights reserved.
- Light travels at 300,000 km per second (1.08 x 109 kph). Even so, depending on Pluto's position, light from the Sun takes between 246 and 410 hours to reach this far-flung world.
The distance from the Earth to the Sun is one astronomical unit, or 1 AU. If 1 AU equaled one meter, then from the sun:
- Mercury would be 0.39 meters away.
- Venus would be 0.72 meters away.
- Earth would be 1 meter away.
- Mars would be 1.52 meters away.
- Jupiter would be 5.2 meters away.
- Saturn would be 9.5 meters away.
- Uranus would be 20 meters away.
- Neptune would be 30 meters away.
- Pluto would be 39.4 meters away.
Clyde W. Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto, had a famous English-unit-based solar system model. For scale, the Earth's polar diameter of 7,900 miles is represented by one inch.
- The Sun is 9 feet in diameter.
- Mercury is a pea 385 feet away (approx. length of a football field).
- Venus is a one-inch ball 700 feet away (approx. two football fields).
- Earth is a one-inch ball 970 feet away (over three football fields).
- Mars is a one-half inch marble 1,470 feet away (one-fourth of a mile).
- Jupiter is a ten-inch ball 5,030 feet (approx. one mile).
- Saturn is a nine-inch ball 1.67 miles away.
- Uranus is a four-inch ball 3.5 miles away.
- Neptune is a four-inch ball 5.5 miles away.
- Pluto is a pea 7 miles away.
- The total solar system fits within a circle 14 miles across.
According to the Guiness Book of Records, the Lakeview Museum Community Solar System in Peoria, Illinois, USA, is the world's largest scale model. Its scale is one meter for every 140,000 kilometers.
- From the Sun:
- Mercury is 0.4 km.
- Venus is 0.8 km.
- Earth is 1.2 km.
- Mars is 1.9 km.
- Jupiter is 6.4 km.
- Saturn is 13 km.
- Uranus is 24 km.
- Neptune is 37 km.
- Pluto is 64 km.