Wednesday, May 5, 2021

How Big is Space? 4 Simulations to Show

Astronomy has always been a favorite topic of mine. From the time I was a child, I have loved learning about the planets, stars, other galaxies, black holes, supernovas, and more.

One thing that I have always struggled with though is grasping the actual scale of space. This is a common problem for most of us, and something that can really help our students better understand scientific concepts they are learning in school.

So how can we get a better understanding of the massive scale of the universe and the objects contained within it? One option is to use simulations that can help model space. Thankfully there are several excellent online, interactive simulations that can do just that.

See below for four of my favorite space simulation sites. Each approaches the concept of scale a little differently, so check each out to see which ones will work best with your students. And be sure to let me know of other scale simulations you have found that I can add to this list.

If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel

https://joshworth.com/dev/pixelspace/pixelspace_solarsystem.html

This interactive site provides a scale model of our entire solar system, if the moon were the size of one pixel on your screen. As you scroll to the right you can travel from the sun to Pluto, and really get a feel for how massive the distances are.

Space Race

http://www.bbc.com/future/bespoke/20140304-how-big-is-space-interactive/

This interactive site lets you fly from the Earth to the edge of our solar system. As you go along, interesting milestones are highlighted. Be aware though, the scale does change as you go, from one pixel representing 1 meter, to one pixel standing for 1,000,000 kn by the end.

Scale of the Universe

https://htwins.net/scale2/

This interactive site allows you to explore the relative sizes of items from the smallest in the universe, to the size of the universe itself. Scroll left to zoom in and see smaller and smaller items. Scroll right to zoom out to see larger things. Click on any object to learn more about it.

The Size of Space

https://neal.fun/size-of-space/

This interactive site helps represent the relative scale of items in the universe, starting with humans, and then moving up through the planets and stars and more, all the way up to the observable universe.