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December 19, 2006

Relative size of some planets and stars

still from the size of planets and stars video

Douglas Adams said it best...

Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mindboggingly big it is. I mean you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space.

But yet, we do try to get our heads around how big space is. We fail of course -- the distances are too vast and the magnitudes of scale are too large for our brains to really deal with(*). The best we can hope for our some clever little snippets of knowledge(**) and the occasional brilliant visual aid. Charles and Ray Eames short film The Powers of Ten is still the best example, but I'm also mighty impressed with a short film I just saw on Google Video.

The 90 second film shows the relative size of several of the planets, and then, as the camera pulls out you start getting a sense of the relative size of different stars, and how that compares to even the largest planet.

Watch the video here.

(*) In this video from the 2005 TED Conference, biologist Richard Dawkins explains how the human mind evolved only to understand the "middle-sized" world we can observe.

(**) For instance, to remind myself of the size of Saturn I remember that it's about 10 times further away from the Sun than we are, and that the rings fit neatly in the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at December 19, 2006 06:51 AM