How Big is Our Solar System?

It’s hard to imagine how big the Solar System really is. Whenever we search it up on the internet, research information from books, the result is always in big, big numbers. Numbers like 58K km or 108.2M km, is just too big for our minds to comprehend, but is what we’re faced with when we want to know how big Saturn is, or the distance between the Sun and Venus. The only way to visualize and have a sense of how big our Solar System is, is to scale it down and measure it out. An interesting trip across ISB’s campus gave us an idea on how big the Solar System is and our thoughts on the size of it would never be the same again.

There are eight planets in this Solar System. The four closest to the Sun – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are terrestrial planets, which means planets composed of rocks or metals. The other four, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are huge planets, also known as the gas giants which are composed of hydrogen and helium. You can see from the Data table below that Pluto is also on the list, however its’s not considered a planet anymore because it’s too small, so it is a dwarf planet.

The terrestrial planets are noticeably smaller than the gas giants as shown in table below. There is a big difference in diameter from the smallest planet (excluding Pluto), to the biggest planet, with a difference of 2.742 cm (137,100 km) but the biggest difference between ALL the planets is its diameter compared to the Sun. The Sun, the star that is ten times bigger than all of the other planets in our Solar System.

As we walked around the campus of ISB in partners with a measuring wheel, it was overwhelming to see how much ground we had covered and the huge distances between the four gas giants. If 1 cm equaled to 50,000km and we covered so much area in meters, it just shows how big our solar system is. And that is only OUR solar system. This universe is full of galaxies with potentially millions of solar systems that can be bigger than ours.

Scale: 1cm=50,000km

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Object Mean Diameter (km) Scale Diameter (cm) Mean distance from sun Mean distance from sun (cm) Scale distance from sun (meters) Travel Distance (sec)
Sun 1,392,000 27.84 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Mercury 4,900 0.098 58,000,000 1,160 11.6 193.33
Venus 12,100 0.242 108,000,000 2,160 21.6 360
Earth 12,800 0.256 150,000,000 3,000 30 500
Mars 6,800 0.136 228,000,000 4,560 45.6 760
Jupiter 142,000 2.84 778,000,000 15,560 155.6 2,593.33
Saturn 120,000 2.4 1,427,000,000 28,540 285.4 4,756.7
Uranus 51,000 1.02 2,870,000,000 57,400 574 9,566.7
Neptune 48,000 0.972 4,500,000,000 90,000 900 15,000
Pluto 3,000 0.06 5,900,000,000 118,000 1180 19,666.7

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