Pacing Between Planets

Trav and I continue to stroll between the planets. Our most frequent route takes us from Neptune to Uranus and within hailing distance of Saturn before we make a left onto the path that leads toward home.

The sun

The sun

Other days we start with the sun and pass over the inner planets, boom boom boom. That end of the solar system is more densely populated.

On the last day of school we encountered the art teacher stencilling distances from the sun for the three planets closest to it. Mercury is 29 million miles from the sun, Venus 66 million, and Earth 91 million.

Too bad the sun couldn’t have taken up the whole parking area, I said. Then it would have been closer to scale. They’d thought of that, said the teacher, but it would have meant making the parking area off limits for a couple of days while the paint dried. Cyclists, runners, joggers, and walkers park there to access the bike path. Teachers and staff from the school across the street use it too. Besides, it would have taken a whole lot of red and yellow paint to turn the parking lot into a sun.

Once all the distances were in place, I started counting paces between planets. The outer planets took a while because I’d lose my place when I greeted someone passing in the opposite direction, or when Trav had to sniff at the bushes or snatch a tennis ball that some other dog had abandoned. When I counted 285 and 288 paces on two successive trips between Uranus and Neptune, I figured I had to be in the ball park.

A big surprise was that it was 272 paces from Saturn to Uranus — almost as far as from Uranus to Neptune. I could have figured this out from doing the math, but walking made it easier to grasp. Saturn, I realized, is roughly as far from the sun as it is from its neighbor Uranus.

Between the innermost planets it seemed my stride was longer: each one covered about 4 million miles. Once I got down to serious walking it averaged a little under 3.5 million. Yes, I know that if I were outbound from the sun the planets wouldn’t line up as neatly as they do on the bike path. Some of them would be way off in the woods somewhere. They don’t move in neat concentric circles either.

Still, the distances are impressive. And Earth doesn’t seem like the center of the universe either.

Trav checks out Mercury.

Trav checks out Mercury.

venus miles

earth miles

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About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has two blogs going on WordPress. "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories" is about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard. "Write Through It" is about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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12 Responses to Pacing Between Planets

  1. Hal Davis says:

    ==I wonder if the perihelion was used for the other planets too.==

    Uh, yeah.

    This is from
    http://www.astronomycafe.net/qadir/q47.html

    (a while ago, so the Next Dates are, er, out of date)

    Distance (mega miles) Next Date
    Perihelion Aphelion Perihelion Aphelion
    Mercury 28.6 43.4 10/16/1995 11/29/1995
    Venus 66.8 67.7 8/11/1995 12/1/1995
    Earth 91.4 94.5 12/21/1995 6/21/1996
    Mars 128.4 154.9 2/19/1996 1/28/1997
    Jupiter 460.3 507.2 5/5/1999 3/29/2005
    Saturn 837.6 936.2 5/26/2003 2/8/2018
    Uranus 1699.0 1868.0 3/1/2050 4/17/2008
    Neptune 2771.0 2819.0 3/2030 2/2112
    Pluto 2756.0 4555.0 8/1989 8/2113

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hal Davis says:

    And here I thought Earth was 93 million miles from the sun. Clearly I am not keeping up.

    Like

    • I’ve been meaning to look that up, because 93 million miles is what I learned too. But I also know that none of the planets keep a constant distance from the sun as they circle around it, so I’m guessing that explains the discrepancy. I still plan to look it up — next time I’m procrastinating . . .

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      • Hal Davis says:

        It varies, it sez here.

        This is from http://www.space.com/17081-how-far-is-earth-from-the-sun.html

        How Far is Earth from the Sun?
        By Tim Sharp, Reference Editor | September 17, 2012 12:12pm ET

        The sun is at the heart of the solar system. All of the bodies in the solar system — planets, asteroids, comets, etc. — revolve around it. The distance from Earth to the sun is called an astronomical unit, or AU, which is used to measure distances throughout the solar system. The AU has been defined [in August 2012] as 149,597,870,700 meters (92,955,807 miles).

        Earth’s orbit is not a perfect circle; it is shaped more like an oval, or an ellipse. Over the course of a year, Earth moves sometimes closer to the sun and sometimes farther away from the sun. Earth’s closest approach to the sun, called perihelion, comes in early January and is about 91 million miles (146 million km). The farthest from the sun Earth gets is called aphelion. It comes in early July and is about 94.5 million miles (152 million km).

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      • I love it when my gainfully retired friends do my homework for me. 🙂 That’s interesting. So 91 million miles is the perihelion. I wonder if the perihelion was used for the other planets too.

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  3. Wow! I’m surprised at how well they’ve held up (the artwork not the actual planets!)

    Like

    • They used good paint! People are biking, roller-blading, and walking over those planets every day, it’s rained several times, and so far there are no signs of wear. I think they’ll last till the bike path gets resurfaced, and who knows when that’ll be.

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  4. jlfatgcs says:

    I love all the planets the children have made. Thank you for all the posts on this!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this series of yours. Reminds me of the beauty of this world we live in (our planet and what surrounds us). So freaking sad that we forget about all of that and prefer to fight and even kill each other. It is so obvious that we should all stroll together between planets instead.

    Like

    • Totally agree — and I just love seeing those planets out there, and knowing that schoolkids did it. This morning I re-counted the paces from Mercury to Venus to Earth. I think I was undercounting before: this morning it was 8 and 7 respectively, not 7 and 6. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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