Visualizing the Motions of the Solar System – Take Two

I am forever fascinated with motion and relativity. One such example is how the European spacecraft Rosetta matched up speed with a comet traveling at immense speed (of 40,000 miles per hour or 25,000 miles per hour – I can only seem to find conflicting values, still searching for confirmation of the correct speed). Another such example is the article I reblogged recently titled Visualizing the Motions of the Solar System. An astronomer friend corrected me and sent me this link: No, Our Solar System is Not a “Vortex.”

Of course, my point of blogging about DJ Sadhu’s video was to show a cool visualization. It gets the layman thinking in a different direction than the boring heliocentric model and all the graphics we ever see about the motions of the planets, as they just spin in circles around the sun. Sadhu’s video spurs the imagination and shows there is much more going on.

Phil Plait’s article is scientific and describes what’s actually happening, and he shows that there are many inaccuracies as to the motion of the sun and planets trailing it in that graphic. He calls Sadhu’s model plain wrong. I will leave it to the reader to study Phil Plait’s article for the various technical corrections, but I take away two main points that may help the layman (and me):

1. The sun is not moving away in a direction perpendicular to the plane of the solar system, like it is shown in Sadhu’s video. It’s actually much more along the plane, causing planets to overtake it and then fall behind again, an intriguing way to think about it.

2. The sun is moving in many more and much more complex directions. I talked about that in My Coffee Cup is Moving more than a year ago. Plait, of course, talks about many of these additional motions of the sun, which, if put into a computer graphic would compound the complexity. Interestingly, if you check the numbers you will see that the motions of the sun that are not directly the sun, like the motion of the galaxy itself, is much faster than the relative motion of the sun within the galaxy. Another vortex?

I thank the Honking Goose for originally posting this. I thank Sadhu for helping us visualize something very complex with his great computer graphics skills. I thank Plait for the scientific corrections to Sadhu’s statements and claims and for the additional clarifications. Science matters – even when we need to make it simple for the non-scientists like me. And I thank my neighbor (BP) for pointing out Plait’s correction to Sadhu’s graphics.

And now we all have learned a little more.

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