Solar System Brass Plate

Brass plates like this one have been installed along Beall Avenue to represent the size and scope of our solar system.

 

Installation Enables Residents and Guests to ‘Stroll’ through the Solar System

Miniature model along Beall Avenue represents the sun and planets to scale

20 November, 2014 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Our solar system is so large that even light takes hours to cross it, but thanks to a new installation at The College of Wooster walkers can traverse it in a matter of minutes.

The scale of the solar system model is approximately five billion to one (1:5 000,000,000) according to John Lindner, professor of physics at Wooster who conceived the idea along with Amanda Steinhebel, a senior physics and mathematics double major from North Canton, Ohio, during her Sophomore Research Experience several years ago. "Both the planets and the distances between them are to scale," said Lindner. "Pictures engraved on 3.5-inch brass markers embedded along the west sidewalk of Beall Avenue through campus represent the planets."

The four terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars) can be found near the sun between Pearl and Stibbs Streets, according to Lindner. The planet Jupiter is alone on the block between Pine and University Streets opposite the Gault Alumni Center, while Saturn is across from Andrews Library. The modern planets Uranus (discovered in the 1700s) and Neptune (discovered in the 1800s) are opposite the tennis courts and just before Bloomington Avenue, respectively. (Dwarf planets like Pluto, Ceres, and Eris were too small to be included in the model.) "The Beall Avenue model dramatically demonstrates that the solar system is mainly empty space," said Lindner. "It provides an educational opportunity that can be enjoyed by anyone walking or jogging through campus,"

The project took just under three years to complete and cost just $3,500. Steinhebel, who is president of the Astronomy Club and vice-president of the Physics Club, marked the locations of the planets and sun based on her design. Beau Mastrine, director of grounds, and his staff, installed the markers, and Manon Grugel-Watson, physics laboratory coordinator and adjunct Instructor, handled the complicated process of ordering the markers and accessories.

"We hope that the presence of the model on campus helps to make science more assessable to the masses, and sparks curiosity among students and community members," said Steinhebel. "It also complements the existing tree walk, and invites community members and guests to explore the campus.

"I value the opportunity to leave a lasting monument of science on campus," added Steinhebel, "and I hope that the model inspires passers-bye to take a moment to consider the wonder of our solar system."