Waimea was living up to reputation with a gusty wind and blowing mist. But this did little to dampen the Waimea Planet Walk sponsored by Keck and CFHT Observatories. A steady stream of parents and kids walked the length of the main street to visit the booths representing a scale model of the solar system.
The Sun and the inner solar system… Mercury, Venus Earth and Mars, all occupied the lawn directly in front of the Keck lobby. Each location was measured properly to achieve the correct position, each booth had a scale model of the planet to correctly interpret the scale of the entire solar system. This meant the Sun was about 8 inches (20cm) in diameter and the Earth a small dot mounted to a piece of wood. In the far corner of the Keck lawn, several hundred feet from the Sun, sat Jupiter represented by a 1/2-inch (1cm) ball bearing.
To visit the remainder of the solar system it was necessary to walk down Mamalahoa highway. Saturn sat in the upper corner of the KTA parking lot, beside the historic cemetery. Uranus was located in the lower corner of the KTA parking lot. Neptune in the park across the street from the library. At the end of the walk, Pluto and the rest of the TNO’s in the lawn of CFHT.
Everyone, volunteers and guests, seemed to be having a great time learning. All up and down the street walked parents and kids from station to station. It is always interesting to see the entire solar system represented to scale like this, even if you have seen it before. The experience is the first step to seeing just how big space is…