Monday, 1 November 2010

World’s Largest Solar System Drive

We’re home again from the Australian Rainbow Family Gathering, which was fantastic, and though winding up, is still going on for anyone able to get out to Glen Davis in the western Blue Mountains.

Littletree and I drove down together (well, I drove, and she was the navigator – she’s learned a lot about reading maps and road signs on this journey)! We took the drive slowly, spending 2 days to drive the 12 hours from home – mostly because we wanted to stop in Coonabarrabran on the way and see the World’s largest scale model of the Solar System – the Virtual Solar System Drive.

It was well worth the slight detour to go see it as well! Littletree has been very passionate about astronomy for a few years now, even to the point of saving up to buy her own telescope.

I’ve gotta say: the Solar System Drive is really cool. It’s a scale model of the solar system on a scale of 1:38million. The Sun is represented by the 37 metre Siding Spring Observatory telescope dome, which is huge.

020  siding springs telescope - the sun

At this scale, Pluto is around 200km away in Tamowrth and the size of a billiard ball

157 solar system drive

The earth is about 5 minutes drive from the Sun, and around the size of a Basketball

026 solar system drive

They actually have set up planets on billboards on all the roads leading to Coonabarrabran and the observatory, as if in orbit, so you can see each planet more than once on different roads (so you can drive out to Dubbo and there’s a Pluto there as well).

Littletree was so excited to see all the planets, and we got to learn a lot about them on the way – as well as getting to take regular stops in the middle of a long drive.

It’s amazing to see the scale of the different planets and really get a feel for just how big everything is, and just how much space there is in space. According to the solar system drive website: “If you’re travelling in your car at 100km/hr along the Solar System Drive, you’d be “virtually” hurtling through space at a million kilometres per second - more than three times faster than the speed of light!”

 022 solar system drive

So from the Sun, it takes a minute to get to Mercury

023 solar system drive

and another minute or two to get to Venus

024 solar system drive

Before passing by Earth and on to Mars, which is tiny

027 solar system drive

Then we drove about 20 minutes before coming across the gargantuan Jupiter

029 solar system drive

Saturn is not only huge, it has rings

007 solar system drive


006  solar system drive 


004 solar system drive

and little Pluto at the end. We really got a sense of hurtling through the immenseness of space. Littletree was especially excited to see the telescope itself, though we couldn’t actually look through it.

015 siding springs telescope

and the view from the observatory was pretty amazing as well

018 siding springs telescope view

We had such a great time exploring the solar system!


  1. This has made me want to go back to Coonabarabran, thank you :)


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