The Model's Origins

Photo from the Register Guard 1990.

The sun we painted on the ground is 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 reality of the relative smallness of the planets, and the great distances between them. No book or movie can adequately create express this concept.

I suggested to my son that we make an accurate scale model of the solar system. We decided to paint the model on the ground, and settled on a scale that made the diameter of the earth equal to 1/2 inch, which 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. It turned out to be a way bigger deal than we ever expected. The nicest thing was all the people who would talk to us while we worked on the project. People really liked it.

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. All this for a model created with $20 worth of paint that the weather erased in a few months.

For the next couple of years I kept thinking about how I could make a better model that would last.


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The Permanent Model

We decided on steel planets on steel pyramids with the sun being a 4'6" stainless steel sphere. Placement would be along the bike path and parks running beside the Willamette River. It was April 1995. I figured I'd have it done by the end of the summer. Ha. A small odyssey and two and a half years later the planets and sun were finally in place.

First we made the model out of cardboard and took pictures to promote the project.
The sun and steel pyramids sit in my garage waiting to be coated with epoxy. Ben holds Saturn and Uranus in place.
Ben drives the finished sun to Alton Baker Park
We make a temporary support to hold the sun while the concrete cures.
The sun and planets together for the only time.
Little dude checks out the finished sun.
Getting Pluto straight before pouring the concrete base.


Hardly at work  
Checking out Jupiter: the largest planet: 1/2 mile from the sun.
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