Otford Solar System – Otford, England - Atlas Obscura

Otford Solar System

Otford, England

In this scale model, our neighboring planets are represented by metal spheres spread across an English village. The nearest stars are represented by spheres in California and Australia. 


The Otford Solar System is a scale model built in 1999 to celebrate the new millennium. The scale is 1:4,595,700,000, so one millimeter is equivalent to 4,595.7 kilometers. All the planets of our Solar System are located in their relative positions at midnight on January 1, 2000.

Each planet is shown as a scaled engraving on a sun-sized stainless steel disc on the top of a three-foot-tall white concrete column. The sun and planets out to Jupiter are all on the village recreation ground and the remaining planets can be found around the village. The sun is represented by a polished steel dome. There is an engraved ring around the dome that shows the directions to all the other planets. Mars is the only planet not on a pillar as it’s in the middle of one of the football pitches. (Pluto is included in the model, as in 2000 Pluto was still considered to be a planet.)

All the planet pillars are in publicly accessible places. It takes about two hours to walk non-stop to all the planets and return to the sun. In that time you will have traveled, to scale, around 25,000,000,000 miles.

Though it may not technically be the largest scale model of our solar system (that one can be found in Sweden), the Otford Solar System has an unusual detail. As part of the scale model a 38-millimeter diameter model of the star nearest to our sun, Proxima Centauri, is located at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, 5,390 miles away. A 600-millimeter diameter globe representing Sirius, the brightest star in our hemisphere, can be seen at Sydney Observatory 10,550 miles away. And finally, a 50-millimeter sphere representing Barnard’s Star can be found 7,825 miles away at the Falklands Islands Museum. 

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