Our Perspective Of Space Is Out Of Perspective
Dave Jarvis/Wiki Commons
When most of us think about the solar system, we think of this:
Can you guess what's wrong with it? That's right: everything. First: Earth is actually really tiny. Really, unbelievably, curl-into-a-ball-and-pee-a-lot tiny. Here's a sense of our mighty, life-carrying planet's place in our solar system's pecking order:
Lsmpascal via Wikipedia
It's OK to feel a little insecure.
Can you see Earth? Of course you can't. It's the pixel below the ever-so-slightly larger blue-green dot that is Neptune, which is below the slightly bigger dot that is Jupiter. To put that in numbers: There are approximately 11.21 Earths across the diameter of Jupiter. The sun is about 109.7 Earths across.
Now that we've established we're roughly the size of a hair follicle on the giant flaming testicle that warms us all, let's talk about planetary orbits. Most classic solar system charts present orbits as perfect circles, with the planets hanging out fairly close to each other at respectable, yet aesthetically pleasing distances. Reality, on the other hand, is a mess of slightly elliptical circuits, as per Kepler's First Law of Planetary Motion. Also, they're really far apart from each other:
Also, they're all at different angles, because nature can never make anything easy.