Axel Valdez

Design Engineer

The solar system dimensions and my ignorance

A tale of good intentions and either ingenuity or plain ignorance.


When we moved into the house where my family and I live, it occurred to me that it would be super cool and educational to have a solar system model in the ceiling of my kid’s room.

And it would be a lot cooler —I thought— if the distances between the planets’ orbits and their size were proportional to their real-life counterparts, the light bulb in the center of the ceiling being the sun. I got really excited.

With all the excitement still in me, I got in front of my computer to calculate said distances. That’s when it hit me: I knew nothing about the solar system size.

If a common light bulb is 6 centimeters wide, and I made all the sizes and distances proportional, Neptune would have to be located at 193 meters from the bulb.

My kid’s room is not that big.

Also, the moon would have to be .14 milimeters in diameter.

Then I got angry at all the illustrations of the solar system I’ve seen in my entire life. They are so misleading! Why couldn’t they just depict the orbits and planets in a proportional way? Thinking a little bit harder, I realized it is simply impossible to do it in print, or in any practical media for that matter. Here’s a proportional depiction of the solar system in a webpage by Josh Worth.

So, at the end I don’t know if the basic education system failed me, or my common sense did.

I decided to go with glowing stars in the ceiling.

Axel Valdez w