From ARCADE Issue 31.4Part of a series of posts sharing infographics and data visualizations highlighted the issue feature, "Designing Data." Subscribe to receive ARCADE in print.

Image from OMG SPACE, a digital replica of the solar system.


Design: Margot Trudell
B. Design Thesis Project, OCAD University, Toronto, Canada

OMG SPACE” functions as a real-scale, digital model of the 10 billion kilometers (6.2 billion miles) between the Sun and Eris, the largest-known dwarf planet in our solar system. The size of each planet and the distances between them are calculated at a ratio of 1:647, with 1 kilometer equaling 1 pixel.

Image from OMG SPACE, a digital replica of the solar system

Image from OMG SPACE, a digital replica of the solar system


The project also includes detailed information graphics that document attempts by all nations to explore the Sun, Moon and planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune –via spacecraft (of note: China has plans for a manned lunar mission within the next few years).

Infographic showing Moon exploration from OMG SPACE

Image courtesy OMG SPACE

The goals of the project are to illustrate the scale and grandeur of the heliosphere, and to highlight the exceptional efforts and achievements made by scientists in exploring outer space. The name of the project (“OMG SPACE ”) is intended to encourage excitement about the space sciences, especially amongst younger audiences.

Extreme scales – as in outer space – are often difficult for an audience to comprehend. How far is 6.2 million miles? Pictures and physical models can be particularly helpful in making large-scale numbers more understandable, because viewers can see actual size relationships in person. The following examples show how numbers can be made more comprehensible by presenting them relative to another artifact (at a scale that you already know.)


Cité de l’Espace is an adventure park in Toulouse, France, that celebrates space and space exploration. The park includes various exhibits, including a physical scale model (Parterre des Planètes) of the heliosphere which visitors can explore.

Cite de l'Espace heliosphere

Photo: Emmanuelle Jallabert

Cite de l'Espace heliosphere

Photo: Manuel Huynh


From the popular web comic xkcd by Randall Munroe,“All 786 Known Planets” is a simple visualization of 786 confirmed exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) as of June 2012.As of August 1, 2013, the number of discovered exoplanets is now 927—still a tiny fraction of the 100 billion planets estimated to exist in the Milky Way galaxy. The 8 planets in our own solar system are shown in the small grey box in the center of the graphic. Note the sampling bias toward giant planets, which are easier to detect.

All 786 Known Planets from xkcd

Image courtesy xkcd


This interactive online module from the Genetic Science Learning Center, University of Utah, provides a fascinating view of scale in the micro world. Using a simple slider, the user can progressively compare smaller and smaller objects—from a coffee bean to a carbon atom.

cell size and scale model

cell size and scale model

cell size and scale model

Images courtesy the Genetic Science Learning Center, University of Utah