Category: Globes

Solar modeling



When I glue a basketball to the top of a pole in my garden, and tell people that it’s the sun, they will probably suggest that I seek urgent medical care. They are unlikely to know that it’s the first stage of my local solar model, and that I soon will be gluing a tiny .09 inch (0.22 cm) blue sphere, representing the Earth, to a fence 85 feet (25.8 meters) away. Using an online calculator, it’s easy to input any size of Sun at any location, and get the corresponding scale model metrics. This is the essential first stage in planning the big diagram.

The Sun in proportion to the planets.

There are representations of the solar system, at various sizes, in many locations. Here are a few examples.


(Photograph: bengt-re)

The world’s largest solar model is in Sweden. The Sun is represented by the huge Ericsson Globe in Stockholm. The indoor arena has a diameter of 361 feet (110 meters). Sedna, a large minor planet, is 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter, and 567 miles (912 km) from the globe, way up in the north of the country. This would be out in the farthest reaches of the solar system.

(Photograph: Dag Lindgren)


(Photograph: Michael York/The Maine Solar Model)

The Maine Solar System Model covers 95 miles (153 km).

The Sun is sometimes a painted ring, sometimes a painted shape, on multiple floors inside the University of Maine, and is 49.5 feet (15 meters) in diameter. The 5.5 inch (14 cm) fiberglass Earth is outside a car sales location just 1 mile (1.6 km) away. It’s another 39 miles (63 km) down the road past models of all the planets to 1 inch (2.54 cm) Pluto (still a planet in those days, and despite being since downgraded, is after all, still orbiting the Sun). They’ve added a dwarf planet, Eris, discovered in 2005, which is a stunning 54.5 miles south of Pluto at this scale. It’s one of the farthest known objects in the Solar System.


(Photographs: Teresacurl)

The much smaller Carl Sagan Planet walk was built in 1997 in Ithaca, New York, in memory of it’s very influential resident. It’s 0.7 miles (1.18 km) from the 10.9 in. (27.8 cm) diameter Sun to tiny Pluto, which is 0.2 inches in diameter (0.05 cm). The Sun-sized opening is a constant to compare the planets against.


A creative solar model constructed in a Nevada lakebed.


Rotating planets by Authentic Models. (Available from numerous online retailers.) Clearly not to scale. So if you give this a gift, make sure the recipient knows not to use it for calculating space probe trajectories.


The globemaker




Quotemark1  When you can’t find it, why not make it yourself? QuoteMark2

Peter Bellerby was looking for a globe to give as a gift for his father’s 80th birthday, but couldn’t find the right one. So he decided to try and make a globe for his dad, and perhaps another one for himself, and that would be it. But from that limited beginning, he expanded to a small business that was based in his house. Now, he and his team create the globes in a north London studio. (

I met Peter at the IC15 conference in Zeist (the Netherlands) and, like everyone else there, I was captivated by the beauty of these hand-crafted globes. Apparently there are only two businesses in the world that make globes by hand. (All photographs courtesy of Bellerby & Co.)



Peter in the studio. (Photograph by Julian Love.)


At work on a plaster of paris sphere (above). Below, the process of applying the gores.


Painting the globes.



The biggest Bellerby globe.



The sizes range from small desk models, which are 9 inches in diameter, to the biggest one in the catalogue, The Churchill, a 50-inch giant that costs £59,000 ($72,000). They plan to make only one of these per year. All the globes have bases with roller bearings for completely free movement.

A really well-made video about the company and their work: