Scales of the Universe
Displayed along the 400-foot-long walkway that hugs the glass curtain wall on the second level of the Rose Center for Earth and Space, the Scales of the Universe vividly illustrates the vast range of sizes in the universe, from subatomic particles and objects on the human scale to the largest objects in the observable cosmos. The exhibit features realistically rendered planets, including a 9-foot-diameter model of Jupiter and Saturn with rings 17 feet in diameter, that hang from the ceiling.
The 87-foot diameter Hayden Sphere at the center of the Rose Center serves as a central reference for illustrating the relative sizes of galaxies, stars, planets, cells, and atoms, with text panels and models that invite visitors to make different sets of comparisons. For example, if the sphere represents the Milky Way galaxy, a typical star cluster within it is the size of a baseball. If the sphere is taken to be the Sun, Earth would be the size of a grapefruit.
This exhibit explores the known range of size scales in the cosmos, from the observable universe at the very largest, down to the nucleus of the atom at the very smallest. The Hayden Sphere in front of you serves as a scale of reference for exploring this entire range of sizes. For example, if the Hayden Sphere-26.5 meters (87 feet) in diameter-represents the size of the Sun, then Jupiter stretches 2.7 meters (9 feet) across, while Earth is a mere 24 centimeters (9.5 inches) in diameter.
This exhibit explores the known range of size scales in the cosmos, from the observable universe at the very largest, down to the nucleus of the atom at the very smallest.
Our observable universe extends more than 10^26 meters in every direction.
We live in the Milky Way Galaxy, a disk-shaped galaxy roughly a hundred thousand light-years across and two thousand light-years thick.
Our star, the Sun, is 1.4 million kilometers across.
Earth is nearly 13,000 kilometers across. The smallest terrestrial planet, Mercury, has a diameter about 40 percent of that size.
Atoms range in size from a few tenths of a nanometer to several nanometers across.