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How Far Away is Mars?

How far would Mars be if the Earth was this big? (© David Paliwoda)

How far would Mars be if the Earth were this big? (© David Paliwoda)

How far away is Mars — or, looking at it another way, how close is it? The exact answer varies, of course, as both it and our planet are constantly moving along their own orbits around the Sun. At the time of this writing Mars is on the other side of the Sun from us, 2.413 AU away as the space crow flies (which equates to nearly 361 million km or 224.3 million miles) and, back in 2003, Mars and Earth were at their closest in 50,000 years at a scant 56 million km/33.9 million miles apart. So on average, Mars is about 225 million km/140 million miles from Earth. Give or take a few.

But to most people (myself included) those are all just numbers. Big numbers — and really not even all that big in an astronomical sense. Just peanuts compared to space. (Thank you Mr. Adams.) So to give a sense of what it means to cross the distance between here and Mars, interactive designer David Paliwoda created a web page that illustrates the scale involved quite nicely. If our entire planet were reduced to a sphere 100 pixels in diameter, and you could travel outward at a velocity of 7,000 pixels/second, how far would Mars be? Find out here.

The Solar System is a big place — don’t let those elementary school science class posters fool you! (And for another idea of scale distances between the planets, check out Margot Trudell’s page OMG Space.)

HT to Gizmodo

About 

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • MDDanielss April 4, 2013, 3:39 PM

    Very well written! Thank you

  • elvigy April 4, 2013, 4:54 PM

    Pretty cool. Traveling 7000 pixels per second. :)

    • Csaba Turkosi April 5, 2013, 10:20 AM

      Which, at 128 km/pixel (if Earth’s 12800 km ~ 100 pixels) is 896000 km/s, or about 3 times the speed of light. This is about 16000 times faster than the number quoted in the blog post above. It would take about 11.2 days to reach Mars traveling (scrolling) at 200000 km/h. Please check your numbers, Jason.

      • Jason Major April 5, 2013, 4:03 PM

        Glad you did that math because I sure wasn’t going to. ;) I’m not sure where the 200,000 km/h number came from, unless it was on the original animation and now it’s not. This is why these sorts of graphics are so important, because numbers escape the minds of many people — including me.

        I know I wouldn’t wait 11.2 days to scroll to Mars.

  • Edward Morbius April 4, 2013, 5:11 PM

    That website has issues with Firefox. Right after it displays the message about how fast you’re traveling the screen goes white.

    • Jason Major April 4, 2013, 6:44 PM

      Try Chrome or Safari (if you’re on a Mac.) Both work fine for me.

    • pollydextrous April 5, 2013, 4:29 PM

      Website worked fine for me, and I’m using Firefox 20.0.

      • krenshala April 5, 2013, 5:37 PM

        I just upgraded to 20.0 because of this and it still does the white screen. I wonder if its because I’m using a 64bit OS (Win7-64)?

        • pollydextrous April 5, 2013, 7:17 PM

          Oh sorry, I’m using linux. Maybe it’s Windows that’s the problem? Switch to a unix-like OS and you’ll be fine. Just kidding! :-)

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