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Understanding the size of our local area in space.

It would be impossible for so many reasons for an aeroplane to leave the Earth and go on a long flight through space, but sometimes we need to use our imagination, and this is one of that times.

By A B ForbesPublished 9 months ago 3 min read
Photo by jabez Samuel on Unsplash

British spelling.

Our solar system seems massive to us but is very small when we compare it to our galaxy the Milky Way and is minuscule when we think of the Universe as a whole.

To make the distances within the solar system easier to comprehend, I will use the speed of a Boeing 737 airliner, that speed is roughly 800 kilometres per hour.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash.

We all know that the Moon is our closest celestial body, it has been the Earth's companion for just over 4.5 billion years. The Moon has an age that is slightly younger than that of the Earth.

Considering the size of our solar system the Moon is just a step away at roughly 384,000 kilometres. That very short flight for our fictional aeroplane would take 20 days.

It is over 50 years since men went to the Moon and walked on its surface. The next space journey for us humans might be the Moon again, or will it be planet Mars?

Image by Chil Vera from Pixabay.

Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun can be as close as 54 million kilometres from the Earth, but it can also be much farther away, we will base our aeroplane flight to Mars on that lower number. This is still a very short distance within the solar system and would take our aeroplane 7.7 years to arrive at Mars.

Pluto was discovered in 1930 and was known as the 9th planet for 76 years, but in 2006 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) downgraded the status of Pluto to a dwarf planet, which left the Sun with 8 orbiting planets. Pluto is much farther away from the Sun than the most distant planet Neptune.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash.

This will be a much longer flight for our imaginary aeroplane. At its closest point to the Earth, Pluto would still be 4.28 billion kilometres away. Even at that distance, our aeroplane would take 610 years to reach Pluto.

But that is not the end of the solar system, there is thought to be a cloud of icy objects that surrounds the Sun, and the closest edge of the Oort cloud could be 2,000 astronomical units away.

One astronomical unit is the distance between the Sun and the Earth, that average distance is over 149 million kilometres.

The time it would take for our Boeing 737 to reach the closest edge of the Oort cloud would be over 42,000 years.

Higher estimates place the outer edge of the Oort cloud at 200,000 astronomical units away from the Sun, now our flight time gets silly, that long journey for our Boeing aircraft would take over 4 million years. Wow!

Our galaxy the Milky Way is estimated to be over 100,000 light-years in diameter, now consider this fact, light travels at 1,080 million kilometres per hour, and yes, there are a lot of hours in 100,000 years. That makes you realise how massive our galaxy is.

The solar system is under 1 light-year in diameter, so you could say that our galaxy the Milky Way is well over 100,000 times wider than the solar system.

One estimate for the number of galaxies in the Universe is 2,000,000,000,000 that's 2 trillion. We can now see objects that are over 13 billion light-years away.

Image by Alex Myers from Pixabay.

I hope that this short article has put the size of our solar system into some sort of perspective, it is indeed tiny in comparison to the Milky Way galaxy.

The size of the solar system in comparison to the Universe is unfathomable, it is beyond minuscule.

End of article.


You might enjoy reading some of my easy-to-understand articles regarding the Universe and Life.

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About the Creator

A B Forbes

I hope you find some of my articles interesting.

Our highly developed brain has given us intelligence and curiosity, now with the help of sophisticated scientific instruments, we can try and make sense of the Universe and our existence.

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  • A B Forbes (Author)9 months ago

    Author. My articles are written for people with an average understanding of the universe and life. We are not all experts. I hope you gain some knowledge if you decide to read them. Regards.

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