Visualization: The Mass of the Entire Solar System
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Visualized: The Mass of the Entire Solar System

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Visualized: The Mass of the Entire Solar System

In space, everything feels weightless due to the lack of gravity.

So how do you measure the weight of objects in space? You don’t. When it comes to the cosmos, all that matters is mass.

Today’s interactive data visualization comes from Reddit user Ranger-UK, and is designed by Daniel Caroli. It delves into the different masses which make up our solar system, and how they all compare in size.

A Star Is Born

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Sun eclipses all other nearby objects by mass. At the heart of our solar system, this yellow dwarf’s gravity is what holds it all together.

The Sun actually makes up 99.8% of our entire solar system’s mass — and we’re lucky to be living in the other 0.2%. Responsible for all life on Earth, it’s no wonder that various cultures have worshiped the Sun throughout history, and even dedicated deities to it.

Currently in its middle years — the sun is over four billion years old, and it’s predicted to remain stable for another five billion years. After this, it will overtake the orbits of Mercury and Venus and then shrink back to the size of a white dwarf.

Out Of This World

The gas giants are all more than ten times as massive as Earth, even though they’re mainly made up of hydrogen and helium. They dominate the Solar System’s real estate — once the Sun is taken out of the equation, of course.

In order, here’s how the planets stack up:

PlanetCategoryMassRadiusDensity
JupiterGas giant1,898,600 x 10²¹ kg69,911 ±6 km1.326g/cm³
SaturnGas giant568,460 x 10²¹ kg58,232 ±6 km (*without rings)0.687g/cm³
NeptuneGas giant102,430 x 10²¹ kg24,622 ±19 km1.638g/cm³
UranusGas giant86,832 x 10²¹ kg25,362 ±7 km1.27g/cm³
EarthTerrestrial planet5,974 x 10²¹ kg6.371 ±0.01 km5.514g/cm³
VenusTerrestrial planet4,869 x 10²¹ kg6,051.8 ±1 km (*without gas)5.243g/cm³
MarsTerrestrial planet642 x 10²¹ kg3,389.5 ±0.2 km3.9335g/cm³
MercuryTerrestrial planet330 x 10²¹ kg2,439.7 ±1 km5.427g/cm³

Satellites Out of Control

The further away from the Sun you go, the more moons can be found orbiting planets. Earth’s singular moon is the fifth largest of almost 200 natural satellites found in the solar system.

Mars has two moons that don’t make it into the visualization above due to their low masses:

  • Phobos: 1.08×10^16 kg
  • Deimos: 2.0×10^15 kg

Here’s a breakdown of some other moons out there:

  • Jupiter
    Total named: 53
    Biggest moons: Ganymede, Callisto, Io, Europa
    These four can be seen easily with some help from binoculars.
  • Saturn
    Total named: 53
    Biggest moons: Titan, Rhea, Iapetus, Dione, and Tethys
  • Uranus
    Total named: 27
    Biggest moons: Titania, Oberon, Ariel, Umbriel
  • Neptune
    Total named: 14
    Biggest moon: Triton, which is as big as the dwarf planet Pluto.

Pluto and some “leftovers” of the solar system lie in the distant region of the doughnut-shaped Kuiper belt, between 30 to 50 astronomical units (AU) away. Beginning at the orbit of Neptune, the belt encompasses some of those objects in the visualization categorized as “other”.

So far, we’ve only managed to set foot on our own moon. NASA’s Opportunity rover helped us explore the Red Planet virtually for over 14 years, while the Curiosity is still going strong.

Who knows what else lurks beyond the edges of our solar system?

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth… I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.

— Neil Armstrong, looking back at the Earth from the Moon (July 1969)

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Demographics

Visualizing Population Density Patterns in Six Countries

These maps show the population density of several countries, using 3D spikes to denote where more people live.

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beautifully rendered population density maps of six major countries

As of 2022, Earth has 8 billion humans. By 2050, the population is projected to grow to 10 billion.

In the last 100 years, the global population more than quadrupled. But none of this growth has been evenly spread out, including within countries.

This series of 3D maps from Terence Teo, an associate professor at Seton Hall University, renders the population density of six countries using open-source data from Kontur Population. He used popular programming language R and a path-tracing package, Rayshader, to create the maps.

France and Germany: Population Density Spikes and Troughs

Let’s take a look at how the population spreads out in different countries around the world. Click the images to explore higher-resolution versions.

This image shows a map of France and its population spread.

France is the world’s 7th largest economy and second-most-populous country in the EU with 65 million people. But a staggering one-fifth of the French population lives in Paris and its surrounding metro—the most populous urban area in Europe.

Many residents in the Paris metropolitan area are employed in the service sector, which makes up one-third of France’s $2.78 trillion gross domestic product.

This image shows a map of Germany and its population spread.

Unlike France, Germany has many dense cities and regions, with Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, and Cologne all having over a million residents. Berlin is the most populated at 3.5 million residents in the city proper, and 6 million in the wider urban area.

That said, the relatively recent reunification of West and East Germany in 1991 meant that post-WWII growth was mostly concentrated in West Germany (and West Berlin).

Italy and Chile: Coast to Coast

In Italy, another phenomenon affects population density and urban development—a sprawling coastline.

This image shows a map of Italy and its population spread.

Despite having a large population of 59 million and large metropolitan areas throughout, Italy’s population spikes are closer to the water.

The port cities of Genoa, Napoli, and Palermo all have large spikes relative to the rest of the country, as does the capital, Rome. Despite its city center located 15 miles inland from the sea, it extends to the shore through the district of Ostia, where the ancient port of Rome existed.

This image shows a map of Chile and its population spread.

Meanwhile in Chile, stuck between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, population spikes corroborate with its many port towns and cities.

However, the country is more concentrated than Italy, with 40% of its residents congregating around the capital of Santiago.

Turkey and Canada: Marred by Mountains and Climes

Though Chile has difficulties with terrain, it is relatively consistent. Other countries have to attempt to settle many different climes—regions defined by their climates.

This image shows a map of Türkiye and its population spread.

Mountains to the south and east, a large, semi-arid plateau, and even a small desert leave few centers of urban growth in Türkiye.

Predictably, further west, as the elevation comes down to the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, population spikes begin to heighten. The largest of course is the economic and cultural hub of Istanbul, though the capital Ankara is also prominent with more than 5 million residents.

This image shows a map of Canada and its population spread.

In Canada, the Rocky Mountains to the west and freezing cold temperatures in the center and north account for the large country’s relative emptiness.

Though population spikes in Western Canada are growing rapidly, highly populous urban centers are noticeably concentrated along the St. Lawrence River, with the Greater Toronto Area accounting for more than one-sixth of the country’s 39 million people.

Increasing Urbanization

According to the World Bank, more than half of the world’s population currently lives in cities, and that trend is only growing.

By 2050, 7 out of 10 people are projected to live in cities. This congregation makes cities a beehive of productivity and innovation—with more than 80% of the world’s GDP being generated at these population centers.

It’s in this context that mapping and studying urban development becomes all the more important, particularly as policymakers try their hand at sustainable urban planning.

As Teo puts it:

“By showing where people are (and are not), they show us where political and economic power is concentrated, and perhaps where and who our governments represent.”

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