To put the vastness of outer space in perspective, Josh Worth, an artist and designer, created “If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel”. It’s a website where you can scroll through the solar system. To scale. It’s kind of insane.
I showed it to Eddie today as a perfect after-nap activity, cuddled up on the couch. There’s a kilometer counter on the bottom of the screen, and as you blow past the orange-sized sun, you quickly realize just how much empty space there is in space. Quirky and sometimes philosophical thoughts cross the screen from time to time, but it takes a lot of scrolling to get anywhere. Thankfully, the planets are pointed out with an arrow and the planet name in large letters, otherwise you’d completely miss pixel-sized Mercury in the vast sea of blackness.
Eddie leaned over my shoulder as we approached Earth.
“Yes! I love Earth! Everybody on earth lives on Earth. Except aliens; they live on Mars.”
“Oh, really,” I said, suppressing a smile. “How do you know aliens live on Mars?”
“Well…because people say they do.”
“Have you ever seen an alien?” I asked. Really, I’m genuinely curious. Where did this alien thing come from?
“Well…they have more eyes than people. I saw them on Woody.” (Toy Story, ahhh.)
Earth comes onto the screen. It’s only slightly larger than the one-pixel-sized moon beside it. A few more minutes of scrolling and we’re at Mars.
“Actually,” I tell Eddie, “there aren’t any aliens on Mars, that the rovers and probes have found, at least.” He’s not fazed in the least, in fact, I can just about hear him repeating this newfound information to whoever has been telling him about aliens on Mars in a pretentious, know-it-all tone (probably the same tone used to report to him of extraterrestrial life on Mars).
The scrolling goes on. And on. And on. We’re told we have over 3 times the distance already traveled before we arrive at Jupiter, but because we know Jupiter is the largest planet, we’re excited to see just how big it is in this scale. Funny facts comparing our seemingly endless scrolling to an extremely long road trip flash by. “I spy with my little eye something…black.” And something about how you’d need 2000 feature length films to fill all the waking hours of space flight to Jupiter.
“It’s just black black black black black…” He continues and it becomes a one-word song (of sorts).
Scroll, scroll, scroll. You can also click on the top of the screen to zoom ahead to the big stuff.
“I can see it very good.” Eddie reports once we finally arrive at Jupiter. “But it’s not as big as the Sun, you know.”
There’s a thrill of excitement and shouts of glee when he remembers Saturn is next (his favorite planet).
“It’s supposed to be tilted.” He says of the magnificent ringed planet once we get to it. “Saturn has seven rings!”
I looked it up. He’s right.
After a whole lot more scrolling and still no sign of Uranus, Eddie’s over it. “It’s taking too long,” he whines. My attempts to pretend we’re on a spaceship hurtling through the solar system are met with the classic, “Are we there yet?”
The whole few minutes we spent chatting about how big the solar system is, the planets, aliens, the whole deal, there was a lot of “Whoa!” and “Wow!”. And I’m pretty sure that’s what the artist was going for. Be wowed. Stand in awe for a minute. Get a little perspective. Go check it out!