Friday, June 8, 2012

Solar System Hikes in America


Carrying over from the solar system "Planet Walk" in California, here is a list of other scale models spread across terrain in various US states! Perfect for summer road trips with the kidlets!

Turns out there are 30 of them! Each gives a unique perspective of the size of our solar system... or at least, far better than mobiles or artist renderings. So, I decided to create a new map of all the solar system walks by state and nearest city.

Solar System Hikes in America
Click for the interactive Google Map Page

If I missed one near you, please let me know so I can add it to the growing list!

ALASKA (Anchorage) - Alaska Center for the Performing Arts
The "Lightspeed Planet Walk", starting at the 6,000-pound(!) Sun station at the corner of G street, proceeds down 5th avenue. Outer planets along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, and signs continue south to Kincaid Park. The scale was chosen so that a leisurely walking pace mimics the speed of light. The Anchorage Planet Walk Org is the only one so far that installed a live web cam on their site!
Approximate Scale - 1 : 2 billion (Distance not noted, creator says 3-hr hike)

CALIFORNIA (Kenwood) - Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Starting at the Robert Ferguson Observatory, find white markers on posts installed along hilly paths, across creeks and to the top of Brushy Peak.
Approximate Scale - 1 : 2 billion (Total distance 4 miles roundtrip)

COLORADO (Boulder) - University of Boulder
Black granite pedestals with mounted planets start at Fiske Planetarium, marking the inner solar system in the museum courtyard, and outer system across one paved street, whose location correlates with the Asteroid Belt… then up two more blocks of the University of Boulder campus to Pluto.
Approximate Scale - 1 : 10 billion (Total distance can be seen with naked eye)

CONNECTICUT (New Milford) - McCarthy Observatory
Starting with the Sun at the nearby New Milford High School, follow the guide map through other schools and the town library along Route 7, out past Pluto to the Kuiper Belt end point. Comes with Passport book, which can be stamped at all the brass and bronze planet sites.
Approximate Scale – 1 : 760 million

FLORIDA (Gainesville) - Park & City
Starting at 8th Avenue: Between NW 34th and 22nd streets, follow the row of concrete monoliths to read facts and poetry about each planet. Earth's moon and Pluto's moon Charon represented in addition to planets.
Approximate scale - 1 : 4 billion (Total distance just under 2 miles roundtrip)

GEORGIA (Gainesville) - Town Square Courthouse
Stone and metal plaques built for The Millennium Project and placed around the city, circling outward from the courthouse Sun. Hands down, best trail map design! Includes the Asteroid belt, Ceres, & Galilean moons. Last erected was Pluto & Charon, alongside arrows pointing the direction to Alpha Centauri, har har.
Approximate scale: 1 : 2 billion (Total distance 3.6 miles roundtrip)

ILLINOIS (Peoria) - Lakeview Museum of Arts & Sciences
Held the record for largest solar system scale model from 1993-98. You'll want to drive this one! Starting at the LM Planetarium, the orrery spreads to polyurethane planets suspended from ceilings of businesses, gas stations, parks and schools. Pluto is about 40 miles out, and they recently added Dwarf Plants Eris and Ceres.
Approximate Scale - 1: 125 million (Total distance slightly under 80 miles roundtrip)

INDIANA (Cumberland) - Marion & Hancock Counties
Goes along the Pennsy Trail: Pavement markings with planet signs, starting with the Sun at German Church Road in Marion County, and ending with Pluto on Mount Comfort Road in Hancock County.
Approximate Scale - 1: 1 billion (Total distance just short of 6 miles roundtrip)

MAINE (Presque Isle) - University of Maine
This walk, which spans Aristook County, holds the current Guinness World Record for the largest solar system model in the USA. Starting at UofM Folsom Hall, sports 3-dimensional models at intervals along Route 1 through towns of Mars Hill (ha!), Bridgewater, Monticello, Littleton, and ending in historic Houlton. Includes nine planets, seven moons, and now three dwarf planets. Interestingly, there are TWO versions of Pluto, one as a planet and one as a dwarf … and also accounts for the elliptic of Pluto in terms of how it can vary from 29 – 49 AU from the sun at different times. How politically correct!
Approximate Scale - 1 mile : 1 Astronomical Unit or 93,000,000 miles
(Total distance 80+ miles roundtrip)

MARYLAND (Glen Burnie) - Baltimore Annapolis Trail Park
Starts at Harundale Mall and ends at the Earliegh Heights Ranger Station , the Friends Planet Walk invites citizens to walk, roller-blade or bike what they call their linear art gallery, with signs/graphics provided by NASA Goddard’s Solar Dynamics Observatory Education & Public Outreach (E/PO) Office. Local artists created a giant metal sun, and one-of-a-kind art sculptures for each planet, including Pluto.
The Approximate Scale not noted by creators (Total distance 9.2 miles roundtrip)

MASSACHUSETTS (Boston) - Museum of Science
Starting with a Sun in Charles Hayden Planetarium, print out a Solar System Passport, then visit the nine planets all around the Boston metropolitan area, in train stations, hotels, malls, the Cambridge Public Library, etc. At each stop in the series, one can make a rubbing of the planet off a plaque with raised symbols.
Approximate scale - 1: 400 million (Spreads over city, not intended as a trail)

Scaled Solar System Strolls in America
MICHIGAN (Escabana) - Escabana Public Library
The Walk of the Planets starts on Ludington & 4th streets and proceeds west from the 400 block to the 2200 block, ending near Lincoln Road. Planets each noted by information board, and this walk also includes markers for the Voyager I and II space crafts, launched by NASA in 1977 – showing how far these two human-made crafts have traveled in the past few decades. (Marker shows where V1 was in 1998, but now in 2012 it would be about another mile out on Route 2.)
Approximate Scale - 1 foot : 865,000 miles (Total distance 3.2 miles roundtrip)

MICHIGAN (Grand Rapids) - Aquinas College
The "Foster Planet Walk" begins at Albertus Hall and circles around to numerous planets in different buildings; celestial bodies not to scale on this one, but represented by large metal plates.
Approximate Scale – 40 feet: 1 Astronomical Unit or 93,000,000 miles

MISSOURI (Kansas City) - VOYAGE Program *
Standardized scale model of solar system starts on Baltimore Avenue, and stretches between the Power & Light building to historic Union Station. Planets are represented by uniform posts and plaques; includes Pluto and newly created stanchion for the Dwarf Planet Eris. Voyage Home!
Approximate Scale – 1 : 10 billion (Total distance 4,000 feet roundtrip)

MISSOURI (St. Louis) - University City
The Delmar Loop Planet Walk starts with the Sun at the Moonrise Hotel, and follows Delmar Street up though Neptune, with informational planet "street signs" at various stores and restaurants along the way. Pluto was removed in 2006.
Approximate Scale - 1 : 5.3 billion (Total distance just over 1 mile roundtrip)

NEW JERSEY (Clinton) - Voorhees State Park
The NJ Astronomical Association created etailed informational posters on stands along a beautiful forest trail by the Paul Robinson Observatory, also accounting for the Asteroid Belt. Gives facts and statistics at each stop, including human missions to each part of the solar system.
(Scale not given by creators, but looks to be about 1 mile roundtrip)

NEW MEXICO (Silver City) - City Streets
Swan & 32nd Street Sidewalks hold copper plaques embedded into pavement at measured intervals, and their helpful walking guide assures visitors that "Normal walking speed equals ten times the speed of light in this model. If you were on the Starship Enterprise, you would be traveling at Warp factor 2!"
Approximate Scale - 1: 2.8 billion (Total distance 2.4 miles roundtrip)

VOYAGE Program Solar System Walks
NEW MEXCIO (Sunspot) - Sunspot Astronomy and Visitors Center

Gorgeous drive from Corona Loop up Sunspot Highway (Hwy 63) through the Lincoln National Forest to the town of Cloudcroft. Road signs with planets and information include asteroid Ceres and Pluto.
Approximate Scale - 1 : 250 million (Total distance 34.5 miles roundtrip)

NEW YORK (Ithaca) - Sciencenter
Honoring Carl Sagan, longtime resident of Ithaca. The Sagan Planet Walk starts at the M&T Bank on the Commons, and follows city streets up to the Sciencenter, where one can get their "Passport to the Solar System" stamped along the way for free admission into the museum.
Approximate Scale - 1 foot : 1 billion miles (Total distance 1.5 miles roundtrip)

OHIO (Cleveland)- Rocky River Reservation
NASA Glenn research center-sponsored markers on walking trail for the "Metroparks Solar System Walk", beginning at South Mastick Picnic Area off Valley Parkway.
Approximate Scale - 1 : 5.3 billion (Total distance about 1.5 miles roundtrip)

OREGON (Eugene) - Alton Baker Park
Small painted orbs spaced around a park lake, then the outer solar system stretches along bicycle paths and city streets in Eugene.
Approximate Scale - 1: 1 billion (Total distance 7.4 miles roundtrip)

PENNSYLVANIA (Allentown) - Little Lehigh Parkway
At the beginning of the Bridle Path on the LLP, The Rev. Dr. Ernest F. Andrews Memorial Planet Walk snakes through forest trails and winds past the water, sporting informational stands describing each planet up to Pluto.
Approximate Scale – 1 foot : 1 million miles (Total distance 1.4 miles roundtrip)

SOUTH DAKOTA (Sioux Falls) - Sertoma Park
One of the few solar system models that is to scale in terms of the planets, but doesn’t designate an exact path to follow, though Sertoma Park notes the distances on plaques, showing Pluto to be about 120 miles away at a particular location if you happen to have spare gasoline to drive it!
Approximate scale and total distance not given by creators.

Scale Model of Solar System for Hikers
TENNESSEE (Kingsport) - Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium
($3 parking fee) Starts with a large metal sun, the dome of the Bays Mountain Observatory, and follows various forest walks around the Lakeside trails, with to-scale carvings of planets on wooden signs at measured intervals. Good for biking or walking.
Approximate scale and total distance not given by creators.

TEXAS (Corpus Christi) - VOYAGE Program *
Standardized scale model of solar system lies along the historic waterfront seawall, connecting the downtown hotels and restaurants to the museum district. Planets are represented by uniform posts and plaques; includes Pluto and newly created stanchion for the Dwarf Planet Eris. Voyage Home!
Approximate Scale – 1 : 10 billion (Total distance 4,000 feet roundtrip)

TEXAS (Houston) - VOYAGE Program *
Standardized scale model of solar system lies along perimeter of Johnson Space Center tourist area, from the ticket office to outlying grounds on NASA Parkway. Planets are represented by uniform posts and plaques. Voyage Home!
Approximate Scale – 1 : 10 billion (Total distance 4,000 feet roundtrip)

Standardized scale model of solar system
stretches between the US Capitol building and the Washington Monument. Planets are represented by uniform posts and plaques. Voyage Home!
Approximate Scale – 1 : 10 billion (Total distance 4,000 feet roundtrip)

WASHINGTON (Longview )- Lake Sacajawea

Polished granite markers with to-scale metal planets follow the curve of the lake from 15th street, past 3 major bridges to Ocean Beach Highway.
Approximate Scale – 1 : 2.2 billion (Total distance 3.2 miles roundtrip)

Voyage ProgramWISCONSIN (Madison) - State Street Pedestrian Mall
The "Madison Planet Stroll" starts with the Sun (an orb lamp!) on Bascom Hill, ending with Pluto on the steps of the State Capitol building. Tiny markers… Jupiter is a golf ball and Pluto is but a speck!
Approximate Scale – 1 : 4 billion (Total distance 1.8 miles roundtrip)

VERMONT (Norwich) - Montshire Museum of Science
Starting with the Sun in Science Park, the Planet Walk proceeds through Ridge Trail and Hazen Trail up to Pluto.
Approximate Scale - 1 : 2 billion (Total distance 3.2 miles roundtrip)

Next up, I'll add all the international Solar System walks to the map!


Anonymous said...

There is one in Maryland too. I stumbled on it a few years ago.

Diane D in FL said...

If they ever finish the one in Orlando, I will go hike it! I think there is also one in Tennessee; when we went to visit my sister-in-law, we took their kids but this was years ago. Great list! You always come up with fun stuff!

PillowNaut said...

Cool, take pictures! I'll add it once I know it is finished. I have thought about getting one of the Voyage program trails in San Francisco somewhere, but need to look into the regulations for doing so :) I also found five more in the meantime, so I'll update the post this friday to reflect an even 30!