Once we move past the nearest star, even the 3-inch Sun model becomes too large for us to conceive, so we choose a different scale. This time, imagine that the distance between the Sun and Earth is the thickness of a sheet of paper, instead of the 27 feet as in the last model. Have the students figure out the distances in this scale by measuring a ream of paper. They should conclude that the distance to the nearest star is scaled to a stack of paper 71 feet high, that the diameter of the Milky Way would be represented by a stack 310 miles high, and that the nearest galaxy would be scaled to over 6000 miles. The most astonishing calculation is that according to our best estimates of the edge of the known universe, the paper stack would reach 31 million miles high . . . or about one-third of the way to the Sun in real distance! Back | Next |