The city of Boston, in the northeast of the USA, has a splendid illustration of the sizes and distances of the bodies of the solar system. Why not put up a similar illustration in your own district? There's no reason not to have multiple instances of the planets, so that people approaching wherever you have the model sun from several directions can have the fun of it all. (Signs by the roadside work well.)
There's another on Route 1, near Presquisle Maine. That one was built by a geologist professor at the University of Maine. He, commendably, I think, did it without a grant, using community labor and contributions.
There are many sources for the information on this page, but I haven't seen elsewhere the "speed of light" scaling information which is here. You can thank the Maine project for that extra.
Boston's 'sun' is at the science museum. They actually have models of the planets in the right places, right size.
If your sun is 3.5 meters across, then the following are the sizes and distances to use for the planets. Distance given in metric first, imperial second...
Mercury: 1.2cm, 147m, 483 ft
Venus: 3.1cm, 275m, 901 ft
Earth: 3.2cm, 380 m, 0.24 miles
Mars: 1.7cm, 580m, 0.36 mi
Jupiter: 36.3cm, 1.98km, 1.23 mi
Saturn: 30.6cm, 3.62km, 2.25 mi
Uranus: 13.0cm, 7.29km, 4.53 mi
Neptune: 12.6cm, 11.42km, 7.1 mi
Pluto: 0.58cm, 15.02km, 9.3 mi
(Those figures are available in an OpenOffice/ LibreOffice spreadsheet. Just change the "Factor" (first number, right hand column) to calculate a new set of diameters/distances.)
Alternatively, you can copy/paste the following, use it to build your own spreadsheet...
--,Diameter,Radius of orbit,Diameter,Radius of orbit --,cm,m,cm,m --, --, --, --, -- --, --, --,Factor,0.0333 Sun,350.0, --- ,11.7,-- Mercury,1.2,147.0,0.040,4.9 Venus,3.1,275.0,0.103,9.2 Earth,3.2,380.0,0.107,12.7 Mars,1.7,580.0,0.057,19.3 Jupiter,36.3,1980,1.209,66 Saturn,30.6,3620,1.019,121 Uranus,13.0,7290,0.433,243 Neptune,12.6,11420,0.420,380 Pluto,0.6,15020,0.019,500
Now... if you built a solar system to that scale, here's the "extra" I promised above. If you travel at 1.2 meters per second, 2.7 miles per hour (a comfortable walking pace), then you will be traveling at the scale equivalent to the speed of light. (Blast! Having worked out that number, I now have an urge to be "tidy", and someday redo all of the numbers so that the scale speed would be a nice round 1 meter per second!)
Walk 9 miles, and then tell me you have a sense of how far Pluto is from the sun. If the sun were 3.5 m across. (And please, don't write to complain about Pluto being in a list of planets?)
Do you like imperial units? Do the "What is the scale speed of light?" calculation in those units. Bah. Speaking of calculations, I'd be grateful if some cruel math teacher would make his or her class re-do all the arithmetic in this page, and contact me to tell me that it passed, or to alert me of errors.
The scale is 3.5m=1 391 000 kilometers, i.e. 3.5:1.39x109, i.e. 1:2.5x109.
Please, can we stop putting things like this in front of kids? (The same day we stop talking about "the invertebrates"!) I know kids have to be started somewhere, but not like this... please!....
Here's a neat YouTube, on a similar theme....
Mark Rober's YouTube explanation
For extra credit... inspired by the video... add Earth's moon to the model!
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