Space Without Space #SaturdayMorningCartoons


Randall plays with the idea of sewing the solar systems surfaces together to create one big map. via xkcd

This map shows the total surface areas of all terrestrial planets, dwarf planets, moons, asteroids and minor planets that are larger than 100 m in the Solar System. They have all been represented as regions of a single massive landmass – a supercontinent like Pangaea – which is clearly surrounded by some kind of ocean.

On the area that signifies Earth the continents are drawn using a map projection that keeps the scale of the continents correct. (This is something that Randall cares about as can be seen in 977: Map Projections). The part of the surface of the Earth that are covered in oceans are also included in the surface area of the Earth (i.e. the map shows the Earths crust). An extra layer of 3-4 km of water seems rather insignificant when comparing to the Earth’s radius of 6,370 km.

The Moon has been inlaid in this map next to Antarctica which thus makes a great comparison of how small the Moon is compared to the Earth (there are room for more than 13 lunar surfaces on the Earth). Similar it is clear that the planet Venus is almost as big as the Earth.

This is also the general idea of the map – to give an idea about how big the Earth is and how small many of the other known planets etc. are; both compared to earth and to each other. The map drawn on the Earth are probably there mainly as a guide to size, because none of the features that are know on some of the other objects, especially The Moon (i.e. craters and “seas”) and on Mars (i.e. Olympus Mons), are included.

The gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune has… not been included because they do not have any “solid surfaces”; even if they had a solid core (which is itself not clear), this would not comprise any “surface”. The gas giants are believed to lack any well-defined surface at all, with the gases that make them up simply becoming thinner and thinner with increasing distance from the planets’ centers, eventually becoming indistinguishable from the interplanetary medium. But if they were included via some sort of surface definition, the map of this comic would become a tiny speck amongst the map of the gas giants. Similarly the surface of the Sun is also not considered a solid surface but hot plasma; if it was included it would reduce even a map of the gas giants to a tiny speck.

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