Planet Walk Draws People Into Its Orbit
Submitted to Patch by Chuck MacDonald, Friends of the Anne Arundel County Trails
It's not often that you can travel from one end of the solar system to the other in a single day.
You don't even have to use the Millennium Falcon or watch out for the Death Star lurking in the cosmos. In fact, a number of people accomplished this trip in a single day last Saturday as part of the Planet Walk, held on the B&A Trail.
Buoyed by the beautiful weather, people of all ages visited the 4.7-mile long scale model of the solar system, beginning with the sun station at Harundale Plaza in Glen Burnie and ending with Pluto at the Ranger Station at Earleigh Heights in Severna Park.
Many travelers stopped to visit with astronomers and astronomy students along the way who provided information in addition to the educational signs that were set up. The scale model included two sculptures and 10 information stations.
The scale model of the solar system allows people to learn about the size of the solar system and about the planets themselves," said Jim Lochner from NASA headquarters who coordinated the efforts of the docents along the trail.
"We also placed Halley's Comet and the asteroid belt along the trail to provide additional information for people who visited," he said.
The Planet Walk also included evening events that gave people a look at the real planets.
Douglas Hamilton, professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland, gave an illustrated lecture on the technological changes in space research tools which have recently allowed him to discover a fourth moon orbiting Pluto. The star party which was to follow at the College Observatory unfortunately had to be canceled because of overcast conditions.
However, that event has been rescheduled for Saturday (April 21) at the Observatory on the south side of parking Lot A at the Arnold campus, beginning at dark. This event will also be subject to weather conditions.
The events were the result of the combined efforts of three groups: Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails, the Anne Arundel Community College Astronomy Club and the Astrophysics Science and Planetary Science Divisions of the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.
"The Planet Walk combines art and science in a beautiful way with sculptures and the scale model of the solar system," said Elizabeth Wyble, president of the Friends of Anne Arumdel County Trails.
"People here today had to chance to put exercise together with learning as they stopped to talk with the scientists to learn more about our solar system."
For more information about the Planet Walk, go to www.friendsofaatrails.org/planet_walk.htm
Interesting fact: The solar system is 3.7 billion miles from end to end.
CORRECTION: Jim Lochner's name was corrected.