astronomic urbanism

With forty miles between the Sun to Pluto (Presque Isle and Houlton) and recently expanded beyond to Eris(!) another 40 miles further, the Maine Solar System Model (MSSM) resides in Aroostook County in Northern Maine at the scale of 1:93,000,000.  It serves as both an educational tool and tourist destination/local point of pride.  Just another piece of astronomic urbanism, one of dozens large-scale solar system models around the planet that are changing our cultural landscape.

Astronomic Urbanism

Beyond the hoped for economic gains of tourism, these astronomic models seem focused on educating local residents. Since most acts of good citizenry require scientific literacy, these large-scale models do (indirectly) inspire community building.  So unlike Corner/Waldheim/Mostafavi/Reed’s theory of landscape urbanism, astronomic urbanism is more about image and knowledge, than creating places. It is also interesting to note that most efforts in astronomic urbanism are really astronomic ruralism, with only a few examples of architectural expression like the Ericcson/Globe Arena in the Swedish Solar System [below].

the MSSM

The MSSM Sun

Housed in the Museum/Folsom Hall of the Presque Isle campus of the University of Maine, the sun is the only indoor piece of the model – the planets are mounted on 10′ tall poles along Route 1 (except Pluto).

MSSM Mercury

MSSM Venus

MSSM Earth


MSSM Jupiter

Jupiter’s rings fell off shortly after installation.

MSSM Saturn

MSSM Uranus

MSSM Neptune

MSSM Pluto

the NEW MSSM Pluto & Charon (the next three pics from astroguyz).

MSSM Ceres


There is a MSSM movie too!

Other solar system models

The Sweden Solar System Model in Stockholm is at 1:20,000,000 scale (spotted via and spans 300km (186 miles) between the Sun and Pluto. The Sun is the Globe Arena aka the Ericcson Globe – at 110m in diameter, the largest spherical building in the world. The Swedish model includes quite a number of comets and extra-planetary objects too.

Wikipedia has a map of the planets as arrayed in Sweden and photos of the planets too.

The Somerset Space Walk [pdf] is a 14 mile stroll along the towpath of the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal. Designed by Pip Youngman, it opened in 1997. [via wikipedia]

There was a short-lived Los Angeles Solar System Model created as part of the Illegal Space Race art performance by the group Monochrom back in 2005.

Coonabarabran NSW Australia’s  Solar System Drive, covers a 190km radius into the outback around Australia’s Astronomy Capital.

Populating towns and cities around the US is the Voyager Solar System, first installed on the National Mall in Washington DC. Replicas of the Voyager space probe can be ordered from the Smithsonian for your town too! Kansas City, Houston, Corpus Christi, Des Moines, Orlando, and Baltimore all have.

The Scottish built a solar system model in 2009 for the International Year of Astronomy and was the largest representation to-date for the duration of the exhibit with 551 km between the Sun and Pluto.

More acts of astronomic urbanism are listed on wikipedia and here.

3 thoughts on “astronomic urbanism

  1. yeah, I saw Gainesville on the wikipedia list. but it’s so small at 1.5km (02 2.9km depending on which listing) that I didn’t mention it. seems to be just one of many proliferating solar systems – like the self-replicating voyager!

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