Solar System Map
The diagram above shows all the planets and dwarf planets (and also the moon and the asteroid belt) in order from the sun. It also includes information on the diameter, mass and orbital period of each body and also a diagram showing the orbit of each body from the sun.
As you can see, the orbits of some bodies - especially the dwarf planets (shown as blue lines on the orbit display) are highly elliptical which means the distance of these planets from the sun varies by a large amount as they orbit the sun. The dwarf planet Eris at its furthest from the sun is more than twice as far away as when it is at its closest,
To see a live map showing the actual positions of each of the planets right now (and also more information on each planet) then please visit the planets page.
Other Interesting Maps:
Map of the Solid Surfaces of the Solar System
A map showing the relative sizes of the solid surfaces of the solar system. Source: xkcd.com
This aptly titled and brilliant map shows the sizes of the solid (and earth’s seas) surfaces all stitched together as if they were a single continent. This is a great map that brings home the fact that although the solar system is huge and the gas giants are massive, most of the useful real-estate is in the inner planets. And who'd of thought that the moons surface is about as big as Africa?
A "to scale" map of the solar system?
or... why don't you ever see both the size of the planets and the distances between them to true scale?
As Douglas Adams famously wrote "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space." He was talking about the size of the Universe, but this phrase still applies if you are only trying to think about the size of the solar system - which of course is insignificant in terms of the scale of the universe.
The problem of showing all the planets and their orbits to scale is limited by our computer screens - or rather the number of pixels.
To prove the point Josh Worth has plotted out the solar system to scale as if the Moon were only 1 pixel. The result... clever, interesting and ultimately tedious! And it shows why you'll virtually never see a to scale model of the Solar System without putting various sized fruits around a football field...
Or even driving along a straight 985 metre road in Alice Springs with a basketball of 23.2cm diameter (representing the Sun) at one end and a grain of sand of 0.38mm diameter (representing Pluto) at the other end....
As a rough guide, the diameter of the planets on this 1:6,000,000,000 scale would be Mercury 0.8mm, Earth and Venus 2mm, Mars 1.1mm, Jupiter 2.4cm, Saturn 2cm, Uranus 8.5mm, Neptune 8.3mm.
To see a version of this video but with more explanation click here.
A Map of the Asteroid Belt
Map of Asteroids from the Armagh Observatory website (now moved or deleted)
This animation represents a map of the increased count of all known asteroids in the solar system between Jan. 1, 1999, and Jan. 31, 2018. Blue represents near-Earth asteroids. Orange represents main-belt asteroids between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. For more info about how NASA tracks and studies asteroids and comets, visit https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch/ and https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/. For a more detailed animation showing the discovery of Asteroids from 1970 to 2015, why not watch this animation by Scott Manley.
Dance of the planets
This animation simply plots the position of the middle of a line drawn between adjacent planets.
The same pattern is produced each time with the number of "petals" differing depending on the difference in the orbital periods. It's exactly what you would expect if you thought about it, but is still mesmerising to watch.
How big is the earth?
Just to give you an idea of how big the Sun is compared to us and how little the Sun is when compared to some of the larger stars.
As a note: CY Canis Major was at the time the video was made (with a radius 1400 times that of the Sun) the largest known star. Currently (Aug 2016) UY Scuti at 1700 times the radius of the Sun is the largest. See the Largest Stars on wiki.
How long is a year?... What's precession?... and how does the Earth really move!
This site tries to keep things simple and therefore doesn't go into the quite complex details of how everything (in terms of the stars positioning in the sky) is changing all the time. If you would like to see under the hood and find out about all the real complexities affecting how the night sky changes over thousands and hundreds of thousands of years then why not try this video.
Unless you want to see the lovely (but pointless) imagery, skip to 1:55 to get to where the interesting stuff starts. And, as a warning, it starts off slow, but the complexity builds until your brain starts to melt - might need a few watches to get it all in.
To skip intro jump to 1:55.
Terms that are explained but which might be useful to have to hand when watching:
Perihelion - Orbit's closest point to the Sun.
Aphelion - Orbit's furthest point from the Sun.
Sidereal year - the orbital period of the earth around the sun, taking the stars as a reference frame. It is 20 minutes longer than the tropical year because of precession.
Tropical year - (also known as a solar year), for general purposes, is the time that the Sun takes to return to the same position in the cycle of seasons, as seen from Earth; for example, the time from vernal equinox to vernal equinox, or from summer solstice to summer solstice.
Anomalistic year - this is usually defined as the time taken for the Earth to travel from one perihelion to the next.
Precession - the slow circular movement of the axis of a spinning body - like the slower movement of a spinning top.
Further Out - Maps of the Galaxies
This mind blowing video from 'nature video' shows where our Galaxy (the Milky Way) is a part of a supercluster of galaxies called Laniakea.
The Entire Universe in One Image
By Unmismoobjetivo - On wwork, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26788359
Artist's logarithmic scale conception (e.g the scale decreases by 10 for every 1 unit you move out from the centre) of the observable universe with the Solar System at the center, inner and outer planets, Kuiper belt, Oort cloud, Alpha Centauri, Perseus Arm, Milky Way galaxy, Andromeda galaxy, nearby galaxies, Cosmic Web, Cosmic microwave radiation and the Big Bang's invisible plasma on the edge (as it looked 13.8 billion years ago - when the universe was tiny).
A reproduction of an Ancient Mechanical Map (or Orrery) of the Solar System
An interesting insight into the Antikythera Mechanism which is an orrery (model of the solar system) thought to have been built somewhere between 87 BC and 205 BC. It is the earliest analogue computer ever discovered. This reproduction by Spencer Conner is a fascinating insight into the engineering required to reproduce planetary motions using ingeniously crafted gears and mechanical linkages.