Every solar system model you’ve seen is wrong
So these filmmakers mapped out the true scale of the planets’ orbits in the sand.
What do you get when you combine science-inspired wonder and seven miles of desert? An incredible video.
Filmmakers Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh, along with a few helpful friends, set out to make a scale model of the solar system. To do that, they traveled 600 miles to Black Rock Desert (home of the Burning Man Festival) in Nevada. Using various technology, vehicles, a drone, math and perseverance, they created “To Scale: The Solar System,” a seven-minute video that shows the orbits of the eight planets in our solar system. (Sorry, Pluto!)
The video is educational, beautiful and awe-inspiring. It shows off our planet’s place in the solar system, and it offers perspective on just how small Earth is in the grand scheme of things. The entire film is captivating, but perhaps the most poignant moment is at sunrise, when the real sun matches the model’s sun, showing that the representation is accurate.
As the video points out, most depictions of the solar system are inaccurate because to create a true scale rendering, the planets would need to be “microscopic.” Overstreet and Gorosh came up with a solution: build a “simulated model” in the middle of a dry lakebed where there’s plenty of space to show off a model of, well, space.
So, why did these filmmakers decide to take on this complex endeavor? Gorosh, a director with high-end commercials and documentaries to his credit, explains the inspiration for the project in a behind the scenes video: “As for why we made the model? Because it’s never been done before, and we felt like it.” Overstreet, a filmmaker with interests in science and nature, also notes, “There is literally not an image that adequately shows you what it [the solar system] actually looks like from out there. The only way to see a scale model of the solar system is to build one.” So they did. They spent 36 hours in what appears to be a rather cold desert to build the model and to capture the footage required.
The technology needed for this undertaking from conception to final cut ranges from sophisticated cameras to analogue tech, like a good old-fashioned compass. They even created a DIY harrow, a piece of equipment typically used to to break up soil but is apparently also excellent for drawing the orbits of planets in desert sand!
According to Overstreet’s website, he’s working on another “To Scale” video about deep time. If the first “To Scale” video is any indication of what’s possible, we can’t wait.