The Model's Origins

Photo from the Register Guard 1990.

The sun is painted on the ground visible behind our heads.

This project started in 1990, when my son was in 4th grade. The project grew out of a desire to show my son the relative smallness of the planets compared the great distances between them. No book or movie can adequately express this concept.

We decided to make an accurate scale model of the solar system by painting the sun and planets on the ground. We settled on a scale 1 : 1 billion. That made the diameter of the earth equal to 1/2 inch, and made Pluto 3.7 miles from the sun. Not too big, and not too small.

We got out a map, laid the planets out along a bike route near our house, and started measuring and painting. We were just doing it for ourselves, but it turned out to be very popular and generated a great deal of local interest.

Don Bishop, columnist for the Eugene Register Guard wrote about the project and the story was picked up by the Associated Press. Articles about our model were sent to us from newspapers as far away as Houston, Texas, and Boston, Massachusetts. A California radio station did a live interview with my son and me. A lot of fuss for a model created with $20 worth of paint.

The paint on concrete didn't last long, and, with the enthusiastic response the model generated, we kept thinking about how we could make a better model that would last.


The Permanent Model

We decided to use steel balls welded on steel pyramids set in concrete to represent the planets. The sun would be a 4'6 stainless steel sphere.

Placement of the inner planets would be in Alton Baker Park with the outer planets placed along the river bike-path: a very pleasant, beautiful ride.

Ben drives the finished sun to Alton baker Park.
The sun and planets together for the only time.
The sun and main informational display
Checking out Jupiter: the largest planet: 1/2 mile from the sun.

Diameter = 2 inches

.8 miles from the sun