Miniverse: Bringing the solar system down to Earth

Posted by Alison Klesman
on Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Miniverse will take you on a road trip through the solar system, guided by former astronaut Chris Hadfield. // All images: CuriosityStream

We all know space is vast — but how vast is vast? When it comes to the solar system, everyday units of measurement such as inches, feet, and miles become too small to realistically measure the distance between planets.

For example, the average distance between Earth and the Sun is nearly 93,000,000 miles (150,000,000 kilometers). You likely have a hard time really picturing 93,000,000 miles, but can you picture 2,680? That’s easy — just picture the United States! 2,680 miles is the approximate width of the continental U.S., from the East to West Coast. You can fly it in a few hours or drive it in a couple of days. And, with a little bit of scaling, you can fit the solar system inside it.

That’s exactly what former astronaut Chris Hadfield does in the new CuriosityStream film, Miniverse. During this 50-minute feature, Hadfield embarks on an astronomical road trip that takes him through a United States-sized solar system: the “miniverse.” 

Miniverse will premiere the week of April 17 on CuriosityStream. You can currently check out the official trailer and find additional information, including cast bios and behind-the-scenes images, here.

Your Guides

Hadfield is no stranger to space — he’s logged nearly 4,000 hours in Earth orbit and was not only the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station, but also the first Canadian to complete a spacewalk. Now, he’s bringing the solar system down to Earth and traveling it by car.

Fortunately, he doesn’t have to drive the miniverse alone. Hadfield is joined by several “astronomical hitchhikers” of great renown: Michio Kaku (a theoretical physicist and New York Times bestselling author), Derrick Pitts (Chief Astronomer and Director at The Franklin Institute’s Fels Planetarium), and Laura Danly (Curator at Los Angeles’ Griffith Observatory). 

Chris Hadfield and Michio Kaku end their drive through the inner solar system at the Brooklyn Bridge, having traveled from the Sun to Mars without leaving the state of New York.

The Drive

The trek begins in the inner solar system; Hadfield embarks from the Sun, which sits at the eastern edge of Long Island, New York. Together, he and his first passenger, Michio Kaku, travel the planets from the Sun to Mars — all without leaving New York, demonstrating just how jam-packed the inner solar system truly is. After a quick stop in Philadelphia to pick up his second passenger, Derrick Pitts, Hadfield continues west, pushing farther out into the solar system in pursuit of the gas and ice giants. Laura Danly joins Hadfield in Colorado for the final leg of his journey, which ends at the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, California, as the dwarf planet Pluto hangs in the sky above. 

Along the way, Hadfield and his passengers keep the vastness of the solar system in perspective, from scaling down the distance between major asteroids in the main belt to comparing the extreme storms raging on the outer planets to Earth’s (relatively) paltry hurricanes. Putting the characteristics of the solar system into Earthly (and understandable) terms truly brings into perspective the amazing worlds that share our Sun. 

In western Colorado, Chris Hadfield welcomes Laura Danly into his “rocket ship” for the final leg of his journey from Neptune to Pluto.

Spirit of Exploration

But Miniverse is about more than simply scaling down the solar system — it’s about the true spirit of exploring the solar system as well. Hadfield shares his personal thoughts on manned space exploration, recounting his time spent in Earth orbit and dreaming of the day a human first sets foot on Mars. Each of his passengers contributes their astronomical knowledge and love of science to the journey, illustrating our current picture of the solar system and our goals for future planetary exploration. As the four-wheeled “rocket ship” passes each planet, you’ll learn what an astronaut could expect to find, feel, and see, were he to visit. If you want to know what standing on Venus would be like, what you’d see as you dropped beneath the top of Jupiter’s atmosphere, or what the view might be from Neptune’s moon Triton, you won’t be disappointed.

From the solar system’s most extreme and inhospitable environments to the places most likely to harbor life or sustain human colonization, Miniverse allows you experience the entire solar system from a truly human vantage point that will leave you easily able to envision yourself standing on Mars or sailing past Saturn’s rings. 

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