Solar System

Ride Shotgun Through the Solar System with Chris Hadfield

It sounds like a space nerd’s dream come true: riding in a Tesla with former astronaut Chris Hadfield, doing a science version of Carpool Karaoke. And to top it off, you’re driving through the Solar System.

A new film out called “Miniverse” via CuriosityStream takes you on a ride through a scaled-down version of our Solar System. It’s similar to other scaled solar system models — which make the huge distances in our cosmic neighborhood a little less abstract — like the Voyage Scale Model Solar System in Washington, DC, the Sagan Planet Walk in Ithaca, New York or the Delmar Loop Planet Walk in St. Louis, Missouri.

But this is bigger. In the Miniverse, various points across the continental United States indicate scaled distances between the planets.

Here’s the trailer:

The first leg of the trip takes viewers on a journey from the Sun all the way to Mars. In the scaled down solar system, that’s only the distance from Long Island to the other side of New York City. In the sky, Mars appears over the Freedom Tower in New York, and Jupiter towers above the Lincoln Memorial.

Then later, as distances between planets stretch out, the gas giants and ice giants spread across the mid-section of the US. Even our friend Pluto appears over the Pacific Ocean off the West Coast of California.

Astronaut Chris Hadfield and astronomer Laura Danly view Pluto from Santa Monica, California, in a scene from ‘Miniverse’. Credit: CuriosityStream.

Your traveling companions are pretty awesome.

Behind the wheel for the entire adventure is the funny and engaging Chris Hadfield. He’s joined by a distinguished band of interstellar hitchhikers: famed theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku, as well as Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and Dr. Laura Danly, Curator of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Along the way, Hadfield poses questions to his guests about the various bodies in our solar system.

“The big takeaway is just how vast the distances are in the solar system,” Danly told Universe Today via email. “Every time we look at a drawing of our solar system it reinforces the wrong image in our minds. In reality, the planets are small and the distances are vast. Anyone who has driven cross-country knows that those miles get very long, day after day. So Miniverse provides a visceral feeling to just how great those distances are.”

A GPS-like view of the first leg of the trip through the Miniverse. Credit: CuriosityStream.

If you already have a CuriosityStream account, you can watch the film here. If you don’t, you can take advantage of a 30-day free trial in order to watch Miniverse, and all the other great science offerings available, such as Stephen Hawking’s Universe, Brian Cox’s Wonders of Life, and other topics from astronomy observing tips to info about various missions to theoretical physics. Check it out. If you’re interested in continuing after your free trial, the ad-free streaming service costs $2.99, $5.99 and $11.99 per month for standard definition, high definition, and ultra high definition 4K respectively.

We suggested to the CuriosityStream folks of putting physical markers along this path across the US, which would really make a great cross country road trip. Come along for the ride!

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004. She is the author of a new book on the Apollo program, "Eight Years to the Moon," which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible. Her first book, "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond.

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