A map of our solar system that puts it into proper perspective

Illustration for article titled A map of our solar system that puts it into proper perspective

Now that the Voyager 1 space probe has officially left the solar system, it would be nice to know where it is, exactly, in the large scheme of things. This crafty map will help.


Given the vast distances involved, it's impossible to create a scale map of the solar system and the immediate interstellar regions beyond it. To overcome this problem, NASA has prepared a map that utilizes a logarithmic scale, which serves as a kind of compression scheme.

In this map, a scale bar is used that is set in astronomical units (AU) — the average distance between the Earth and our sun (about 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers). Each set distance beyond 1 AU represents 10 times the previous distance.

Neverminding the fact that they left out Pluto, Neptune is the most distant planet at about 30 AU. Voyager is currently at around 125 AU — which is a jaw-dropping 11.62 billion miles (18.7 billion km) away. Voyager, you are a long way from home! It should take the spacecraft around 300 years to reach the inner edge of the Oort cloud — that massive expanse of celestial debris that sits at the outer realm of the solar system.

And massive it is. The one thing that strikes me most about this scaled map is how unbelievably large the Oort Cloud really is. And in fact, it'll take Voyager about 30,000 years to fly through it.

The closest star to our own is Alpha Centurai, but in 40,000 years Voyager will be closer to star AC +79 3888 than to our own sun. This nearby star is actually traveling faster toward Voyager 1 than it is traveling toward the star.


[Via NASA]

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.


Dr Emilio Lizardo

...a map that utilizes a kind of compression scheme.

You mean a logarithmic scale?