A Journey Through Our Solar System
You are standing near Pluto within a model of our solar system. The real solar system is 10 billion times larger.
Take a voyage! Imagine exploring our solar system as a giant. As you travel, you encounter the Sun and its planets, each small enough to hold in your hand. Look at the map below to see where you are.
The grapefruit-size Sun is at the far end of the National Air and Space Museum. You are beyond the planet Neptune, where the dwarf planet Pluto is found.
Would you like to visit Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun? At this scale it would be the size of a grape on the coast of California, 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from where you are standing.
The Milky Way: Our City of Stars
The Sun and all the stars that grace the night sky belong to an immense swirl of stars called the Milky Way galaxy, one of billions of galaxies in the universe. The Milky Way may have 50 stars for every person on Earth, and most stars have their own solar systems. With all these countless other worlds, does life exist elsewhere?
If You Could Travel at the Speed of Light
Light is the fastest thing known, able to travel nearly 8 times around the earth in a second. Exploring the space between the Sun and the next nearest star—at the fantastic speed of light—would
be like exploring the continental U.S. as an ant moving 1 inch per second (2.5 cm/sec).
Our Solar System: A Family Portrait
You are at a historic spot within this model of our solar system. Just outside Pluto's orbit, in February 1990, the Voyager I
spacecraft took the first photographs of the solar system from beyond the planets. Earth is one of 6 planets imaged. This is a family portrait, and you're in it.
"I say!" murmured Horton. I've never heard tell
Of a small speck of dust that is able to yell.
So you know what I thing?...Why, I think there must
Be someone on top of that small speck of dust!
Some sort of creature of very small size,
Too small to be seen by an elephant's eyes...
—Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who!
Our solar system orbits the center of the Milky Way galaxy once every 225 million years. One orbit ago, the dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
is an exhibition of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education and the Smithsonian Institution. It is designed for permanent installation in communities worldwide.
A 2013 update of this exhibition's content is provided by a grant from the DC Space Grant Consortium.
Initial development and installation of the exhibition in Washington, DC, was a joint project of Challenger Center for Space Science Education and the Smithsonian Institution, and NASA.
Program Director: Dr. Jeff Goldstein
Deisgn: Vincent Ciulla Design
3-D scale models: Seaena
Procelain enamel: Winsor Fireform
In the real solar system, the planets never line up as they orbit the Sun.