Here’s how you can visit the solar system in Maine, no rocket ship required

Who hasn’t dreamed of going to space? But unless those dreams turn into a career as a member of the elite NASA astronaut program, most people remain earthbound. Lucky for them, there is way to explore our neighboring planets without needing a rocket ship or zero-gravity training or even leaving the state.

The Maine Solar System Model is a 1-to-93-million replica of the sun and nine orbiting planets stretching along U.S. Route 1 from Presque Isle to Houlton.

At that scale, the actual distance between the various planets is 93 million times that of the between the replicas of the model.

The center of this small scale universe is at the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Folsom Hall, where the model of the sun was placed when the project was begun in 2000 and was the brainchild of Dr. Kevin McCartney, professor of geology and director of the campus’ Northern Maine Museum of Science.

Driving from UMPI, all nine planets in the solar system are visible from a car window along a 40-mile road trip south.

And according to the folks at the Maine Tourism’s Houlton Information Center, a lot of people make that celestial-themed drive.

“We do get a lot of questions and interest in the [solar system] model,” Cathy Hogan, visitor center manager, said. “Some people just notice the planets by chance and others have come specifically to find them all.”

The northern Maine model is the second largest scale model of the solar system in the world and the largest in the Western Hemisphere, according to McCartney.

Some of the planets — like the larger Jupiter and Saturn — are easier to spot from the road than the smaller orbiting bodies like Mars or Earth.

Fortunately, an online interactive and print map identify the locations of each planet.

The Fiddlehead Focus / St. John Valley Times is pleased to feature content from our sister company, Bangor Daily News. To read the rest of “Here’s how you can visit the solar system in Maine, no rocket ship required,” an article by contributing Bangor Daily News staff writer Julia Bayly, please follow this link to the BDN online.

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