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Small Solar System

Shows Big Realities

Kathryn Demby, her grandson, Lukas Dolan, 10, of Worcester; Cristina Hansen, adjunct lecturer for SUNY Oneonta’s physics lab; her husband, Erik Stengler, professor in CGP’s Science Museum Studies Track; Jim Hill, OCCA vice president, and far right, Jeff O’Handley, OCCA’s program director. (Jennifer Hill/

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

COOPERSTOWN  – They might not look like space explorers, but the seven who met Saturday morning at the railroad tracks were just that.

Bill Ralston led a tour of the Earth’s solar system, from the sun to Pluto, by using common objects to represent the planets and walking specific numbers of paces between them to represent actual distances between them.

The groups planed a BB pellet on a white cardboard piece to mark Earth’s place in the solar system.

Ralston brought a 16-pound, yellow-painted bowling ball to represent the sun, seen down the track and on its left side, the start of the walk.  He chose explained the bowling ball was “80 percent to scale” of the actual sun” and the BB pellet representing the earth “is almost as dense as the earth” as well as size relative to the sun.

The first white card after the sun is Mercury and the second is Venus, marked by a pin and peppercorn, respectively.  Pluto, the end of the solar system, was about 800 paces away, and the objects were laid in a line to represent the solar system’s planets existing on a plane.


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