Agnes Scott College scale-model project helps put solar system in perspective

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Did you know that Atlanta has its very own scale model of the solar system stretching across the city?

The Metro-Atlanta Scale Model Solar System project, based at Agnes Scott College's Bradley Observatory, is preparing to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The educational tool, aka MASS, helps people understand the size and scale of our solar system.

The sun is represented by a 30-foot-wide plaza outside Bradley Observatory on the Decatur college's campus, with eight other locations in metro Atlanta hosting displays on the planets.

Chris De Pree, director of the Bradley Observatory and an astronomy professor at Agnes Scott, said the project evolved from a major renovation of the observatory in the late 1990s.

The ideas started flowing and growing. After lots of hard work and collaboration involving astronomers, architects, faculty and students, the citywide scale-model project launched in 2009.

The locations for the other displays include Emory University, Georgia Tech, the airport and a state park.

"What you want is for people to come across scientific information that is not in a classroom," De Pree said.

Between school groups and open houses, De Pree estimates that 20,000 to 25,000 people have visited the Bradley Observatory installation since its construction – and that doesn't take into account all of the other locations. He said he can look out his office window and see people checking out the plaza daily.

"It was an idea that just sort of happened, and it's grown into something that had more of an impact than I ever thought it would," De Pree said.

Here are the eight locations with planet displays:

  • Mercury: Alston Campus Center at Agnes Scott College
  • Venus: Decatur High School
  • Earth: Decatur branch of the DeKalb County Public Library
  • Mars: Columbia Theological Seminary
  • Jupiter: Emory University's Physics Building
  • Saturn: Georgia Tech's Physics Building
  • Uranus: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
  • Neptune: Sweetwater Creek State Park in Lithia Springs

The sites were chosen based on their locations and accessibility.

For more information on the MASS project, click here