Isles to ‘play’ Neptune in bid to create biggest model of solar system

The area covered by the scale model of the solar system. Click on image to enlarge.
The area covered by the scale model of the solar system. Click on image to enlarge.

Shetland is taking part in a world record attempt at the weekend to create the largest scale model of the solar system, organised by Glasgow University astronomers.

Most adults have probably made a model of the solar system at some point, but the Scottish Solar System Project is aiming to lay out the positions using locations up and down the length of Scotland, from Glasgow to Lerwick.

Shetland has an important role as it marks the position of Neptune, now the furthest planet from the Sun after Pluto was summarily demoted recently. The six-metre diameter paved circle at the Knab at Lerwick will represent Neptune.

Incidentally, on this scale, the Sun will be located in the heart of Glasgow, represented in size and position by the Glasgow Science Centre. Earth will be represented by a 1.5 metre (5ft) diameter sphere about 25 miles outside Glasgow.

Sweden currently holds the record with a 1:20 million scale model. However, the Scottish model will be 1:8 million.

To celebrate the world record attempt Shetland Astronomical Society is staging an event at the Shetland Museum on Saturday at 6.30pm where Frazer Pearce from Nottingham University will give a presentation entitled Solar Systems: Home and Away.

People will be able to discover more about the solar system they live in, as well as the hundreds of “exoplanets” that astronomers have discovered, which are big planets forming solar systems around stars other than our own Sun.

There will be several telescopes and other activities available in front of the museum (with activities starting in the foyer in the case of poor weather). If the sky is clear there may be the opportunity to see the moon, Jupiter and some of Jupiter’s moons.

The paved circle at the Knab will represent Neptune. Click on image to enlarge.
The paved circle at the Knab will represent Neptune. Click on image to enlarge.

Shetland Astronomical Society hopes to be able to show some great views of the moon too, especially as the event is part of the Autumn Moonwatch, International Year of Astronomy 2009.

There will be a second presentation and another opportunity to use the telescopes on 21st November when John Baruch from Bradford University will be giving a talk.

The event is free but booking is essential as seats are limited. Call the museum on (01595) 741562 to confirm.

Glasgow University will be updating a Wikipedia page once all the events up and down the country are over at


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