There’s a place in upstate New York where a short trip through town will take you billions of miles across the solar system. The Sagan Planet Walk, named after longtime Ithaca resident and Cornell professor Carl Sagan, is a 1:5 billion scale model of our solar system. It begins with the Sun positioned in Ithaca Commons, the city’s downtown shopping center, and ends 1,200 meters (or three quarters of a mile) away with Pluto located at the Sciencenter, an interactive museum with over 250 exhibits.
Each planet station features a stone plinth and interpretive plaque with stunning NASA images, interesting facts about our neighboring worlds, and models illustrating the size of each planet as it compares to the Sun. The monoliths were designed by artist Erin Caruth to recall the forms of standing stones and other astronomical monuments of ancient civilizations.
Conceived in 1995, the Planet Walk has grown through the years to incorporate the asteroid belt (represented by a 40 kilogram meteorite) and a free cell phone audio tour narrated by Bill Nye, the Science Guy. There’s even an effort to establish a station in Hawaii, to represent Alpha Centauri, the closest star to the Sun. If successful, the new stone would make the Sagan Planet Walk the largest permanent exhibition in the world.