A Map of Every Object in Our Solar System - Visual Capitalist
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A Map of Every Object in Our Solar System

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solar system map

A Map of Every Object in Our Solar System

View the high resolution version of this incredible map by clicking here

The path through the solar system is a rocky road.

Asteroids, comets, planets and moons and all kinds of small bodies of rock, metals, minerals and ice are continually moving as they orbit the sun. In contrast to the simple diagrams we’re used to seeing, our solar system is a surprisingly crowded place.

In this stunning visualization, biologist Eleanor Lutz painstakingly mapped out every known object in Earth’s solar system (>10km in diameter), hopefully helping you on your next journey through space.

Data-Driven Solar System

This particular visualization combines five different data sets from NASA:

Objects in solar system

Source: Tabletop Whale

From this data, Lutz mapped all the orbits of over 18,000 asteroids in the solar system, including 10,000 that were at least 10km in diameter, and about 8,000 objects of unknown size.

This map shows each asteroid’s position on New Year’s Eve 1999.

The Pull of Gravity

When plotting the objects, Lutz observed that the solar system is not arranged in linear distances. Rather, it is logarithmic, with exponentially more objects situated close to the sun. Lutz made use of this observation to space out their various orbits of the 18,000 objects in her map.

What she is visualizing is the pull of the sun, as the majority of objects tend to gravitate towards the inner part of the solar system. This is the same observation Sir Isaac Newton used to develop the concept of gravity, positing that heavier objects produce a bigger gravitational pull than lighter ones. Since the sun is the largest object in our solar system, it has the strongest gravitational pull.

If the sun is continually pulling at the planets, why don’t they all fall into the sun? It’s because the planets are moving sideways at the same time.

orbiting around the sun

Without that sideways motion, the objects would fall to the center – and without the pull toward the center, it would go flying off in a straight line.

This explains the clustering of patterns in solar systems, and why the farther you travel through the solar system, the bigger the distance and the fewer the objects.

The Top Ten Non-Planets in the Solar System

We all know that the sun and the planets are the largest objects in our corner of the universe, but there are many noteworthy objects as well.

RankNameDiameterNotes
1Ganymede3,273 mi (5,268 km)Jupiter's largest moon
2Titan3,200 mi (5,151 km)Saturn's largest moon
3Callisto2,996 mi (4,821 km)Jupiter's second largest moon
4Io2,264 mi (3,643 km)Moon orbiting Jupiter
5Moon2,159 mi (3,474 km)Earth's only moon
6Europa1,940 mi (3,122 km)Moon orbiting Jupiter
7Triton1,680 mi (2,710 km)Neptune's largest moon
8Pluto1,476 mi (2,376 km)Dwarf planet
9Eris1,473 mi (2,372 km)Dwarf planet
10Titania981 mi (1,578 km)Uranus' largest moon

Source: Ourplnt.com

While the map only shows objects greater than 10 kilometers in diameter, there are plenty of smaller objects to watch out for as well.

An Atlas of Space

This map is one among many of Lutz’s space related visualizations. She is also in the process of creating an Atlas of Space to showcase her work.

As we reach further and further beyond the boundaries of earth, her work may come in handy the next time you make a wrong turn at Mars and find yourself lost in an asteroid belt.

“I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque!”

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Misc

Animated Map: Visualizing Earth’s Seasons

This map visualizes Earth’s seasons, showing how our planet’s Arctic sea ice and vegetation changes throughout the year.

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Animated Map: Visualizing Earth’s Seasons

Why does Earth have seasons?

Many people think the seasons are dictated by Earth’s proximity to the Sun, but this isn’t the case. It’s the Earth’s tilt, not its closeness to the Sun, that influences our seasons.

This animated map by Eleanor Lutz visualizes Earth’s seasons, showing how the temperature changes impact ice levels in the Arctic as well as vegetation more broadly. It also highlights the cloud cover and sunlight each hemisphere receives throughout the year, with each frame in the animation representing a month of time.

Why is Earth Tilted?

Unlike some of the planets that sit completely upright and rotate perpendicularly, Earth rotates on a 23.5-degree axis.

But why? A commonly accepted theory among the scientific community is the giant impact hypothesis. According to this theory, a celestial object called Theia collided with Earth many years ago, when the planet was still forming. This collision not only knocked Earth into its tilted position—some believe that the dust and debris from this impact ended up forming our moon.

Ever since, our planet has been rotating with a slight tilt (which itself is not fixed, as it “wobbles” in cycles), giving us our varying seasons throughout the year.

How Earth’s Tilt Influences our Seasons

As our planet orbits the Sun, it’s always leaning in the same direction. Because of its tilt, the different hemispheres receive varying amounts of sunlight at different times of the year.

In December, Earth is technically closer to the Sun than it is in June or July. However, because the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun during December, that part of the planet experiences winter during that time.

Earth's Seasonal Climates

The graphic above by the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) visualizes Earth’s orbit throughout the year, showing when each hemisphere receives the most direct sunlight (and thus, experiences summer).

The Climate Change Impact

While our seasons have always varied, it’s worth noting that climate change has impacted our seasons, and changed how much Arctic ice we lose each summer.

In the past, millions of miles of ice remained frozen throughout the summer months. In the 1980s, there were 3.8 million square miles of ice in July—that’s roughly the same size as Australia.

Over the years, Arctic ice cover has steadily declined. In July 2020, the ice cover was only 2.8 million square miles—a million less than the amount four decades ago.

Some scientists are predicting that we could lose our summer sea ice entirely by 2035, which would have a devastating impact on the Artic’s wildlife and the indigenous people who live there.

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Misc

10 Travel Destinations for Post-Pandemic Life

Excited to get back to travelling the world? This infographic highlights the 10 most popular tourist destinations.

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10 Travel Destinations for Post-Pandemic Life

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization formally classified the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. The resulting travel bans decimated the tourism industry, and international air travel initially fell by as much as 98%.

Almost two years later, travel is finally back on the table, though there are many restrictions to consider. Regardless, a survey conducted in September 2021 found that, as things revert to normalcy, 82% of Americans are looking forward to international travel more than anything else.

To give inspiration for your next vacation (whenever that may be), this infographic lists the 10 most visited countries in 2019, as well as three of their top attractions according to Google Maps.

Bon Voyage

Here were the 10 most popular travel destinations in 2019, measured by their number of international arrivals.

CountryNumber of international arrivals in 2019 (millions)
🇫🇷 France*90.0
🇪🇸 Spain83.5
🇺🇸 U.S.79.3
🇨🇳 China65.7
🇮🇹 Italy64.5
🇹🇷 Turkey51.2
🇲🇽 Mexico45.0
🇹🇭 Thailand39.8
🇩🇪 Germany39.6
🇬🇧 United Kingdom39.4

*Estimate | Source: World Bank

France was the most popular travel destination by a significant margin, and it’s easy to see why. The country is home to many of the world’s most renowned sights, including the Arc de Triomphe and Louvre Museum.

The Arc de Triomphe was built in the early 1800s, and honors those who died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. In 1944, Allied soldiers marched through the monument after Paris was liberated from the Nazis.

The Louvre Museum, on the other hand, is often recognized by its giant glass pyramid. The museum houses over 480,000 works of art, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Art isn’t the only thing that France has to offer. The country has a reputation for culinary excellence, and is home to 632 Michelin-starred restaurants, the most out of any country. Japan comes in at second, with 413.

While You’re There…

After seeing the sights in Paris, you may want to consider a visit to Spain. The country is the southern neighbor of France and is known for its beautiful villages and beaches.

One of its most impressive sights is the Sagrada Familia, a massive 440,000 square feet church which began construction in 1882, and is still being worked on today (139 years in the making). The video below shows the structure’s striking evolution.

At a height of 172 meters, the Sagrada Familia is approximately 52 stories tall.

Another popular spot is Ibiza, an island off the coast of Spain that is famous for its robust nightlife scene. The island is frequently mentioned in pop culture—Netflix released an adventure/romance movie titled Ibiza in 2018, and the remix of Mike Posner’s song I Took a Pill in Ibiza has over 1.4 billion views on YouTube.

Beaches Galore

If you’re looking for something outside of Europe, consider Mexico or Thailand, which are the 7th and 8th most popular travel destinations. Both offer hot weather and an abundance of white sand beaches.

If you need even more convincing, check out these links:

Expect Turbulence

Under normal circumstances, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year by international tourists. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTCC), this spending accounted for an impressive 10.4% of global GDP in 2019.

Travel restrictions introduced in 2020 dealt a serious blow to the industry, reducing its share of global GDP to 5.5%, and wiping out an estimated 62 million jobs. While the WTCC believes these jobs could return by 2022, the emerging Omicron variant has already prompted many countries to tighten restrictions once again.

To avoid headaches in the future, make sure you fully understand the rules and restrictions of where you’re heading.

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