Miles from civilization, in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, two filmmakers took on a challenge so big, it was pretty much out of this world. Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh headed into the desert with a minivan, a few friends, a ton of video equipment, and some lighted orbs in various sizes, corresponding to each of our most familiar planets. They built a scale model of our Solar System that spanned more than seven miles, and then filmed a time-lapse video to illustrate each planet’s orbit around the sun.
Overstreet and Gorosh partnered up to build and film what might be the first-ever to-scale model of the Solar System. They selected the site, a dry lakebed in the Nevada desert, and embarked on the challenge of tracing out each planet’s orbit around the sun, using proportionately appropriate models of each planet. In their representation, Earth is only the size of a marble. To really illustrate the relationships in size and distance between all the planets circling the sun, they drove each orbit with a light and filmed it from a camera positioned high above the lakebed, creating an amazing time-lapse video. The pair captured their efforts in a beautiful short film called To Scale: The Solar System, which is embedded above.
This is a lot different than the planetary models we made as kids, with fishing line and painted styrofoam balls. Those elementary school projects were great at helping us learn the names of the planets, and maybe even remembering which ones have rings and which have moons. Yet, those simple models – and arguably all commercially produced models – simply can’t illustrate the true gigantic-ness of our Solar System. That’s why Overstreet and Gorosh set out into the desert, and it’s why their film is so powerful. It puts into perspective something we haven’t been able to see until now.
Douglas Adams was right. Space is vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big.
Images via Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh via screenshot