Models to visualize size and distance in the universe


The Universe: Size and distance proportions made visible

Here you see 8 different size spheres out of which to construct scale models
that will help us visualize sizes and distances in the universe.

The model spheres range in size
from the smallest, with a diameter of ¼mm, about the size of a grain of fine sand,
to the largest, with a diameter of 3.2cm, about the size of a ping pong ball.

Here are some general facts you can use throughout these modeling projects:

  • 1 mm = 0.001 meter
  • 1 cm = 0.01 meter
  • One yard is approximately one meter
  • One mile = 1600m
  • diameter of a grain of fine sand: ¼mm (see circle A in size diagrams.)
  • number of grains of fine sand in a bucket: 1.25 billion ( or 1.25x109 )
  • number of stars in an average galaxy: 100 billion
  • number of galaxies in the visible universe: 100-200 billion

Now some more facts, about actual sizes and distances (some are approximate) in the universe:

  • 1 Light year (distance that light travels in one year) = 1.0x1016m
  • Diameter of the earth = 1.2x107m
  • Diameter of the sun = 1.5x109m
  • Distance from the sun to the earth = 1.5x1011m
  • Diameter of the solar system (twice the distance from sun to Neptune) = 9.6x1012m
  • Distance to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star (other than the sun) = 4.3 Light Years
  • Diameter of the Milky Way galaxy = 100,000 Light Years
  • Distance to Andromeda, the nearest neighboring galaxy = 2,000,000 Light Years

Permission is hereby granted to reproduce the contents of this section for use in teaching, provided no charge or fee is accepted and provided credit is given to Cavendish Science Organization

Go to 'JOB 0' Get started on scales and models.

Go to 'JOB 1' The Earth a size E ball.
Go to 'JOB 2' The Earth a grain of fine sand.
Go to 'JOB 3' The Sun a grain of fine sand.
Go to 'JOB 4' A scale for the whole Universe.
Go to 'JOB 5' The Universe an exploding 4th of July firecracker.
Go to 'JOB 6' What happened in the Year 500,000?


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