Twin Lakes walk offers tour through solar system

Posted: Sunday, July 07, 2002

Joggers and trail walkers might find themselves toning their knowledge of celestial bodies along with their legs soon as the Friends of the Marie Drake Planetarium finishes its "Planet Walk" project at Twin Lakes.

The group, which promotes astronomy-related projects in Juneau, has called on community organizations to paint on the paved trail at Twin Lakes the planets of the solar system.

Michael Orelove, a volunteer for the Friends of the Marie Drake Planetarium and project organizer, said the walking tour of the solar system runs for about a mile on the trail. The tour begins with the sun, which is painted at the beginning of the trail near the park swing set, and extends to the furthest planet Pluto, near the Pioneers' Home.

The sun and planets are of relative size and distance from one another. Each planet is labeled with the name, diameter and distance from the sun, Orelove said. The sun is about 52 feet in diameter on the path, while the smallest body, Pluto, is about an inch.

"One large bird dropping could wipe out the entire planet of Pluto," Orelove noted.

Various organizations in Juneau have been assigned a planet on the trail.

Mercury, the planet known as the winged messenger, was appropriately assigned to the Juneau Raptor Center. An Eastern dancing group called the Daughters of the New Moon took Saturn.

The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council was assigned the Earth. Students at Riverbend Elementary School's Rally program painted Jupiter. KTOO public radio and TV is responsible for Neptune. Juneau Montessori School painted Uranus; Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Juneau did Venus.

Residents of the Pioneers' Home will paint Pluto; and volunteers for the Friends of the Marie Drake Planetarium will paint the sun.

"Mars has not been assigned yet," Orelove said. "I'm not sure what would be the appropriate group."

He said several of the planets have been painted, and the entire project should be complete as soon as the weather clears and gives workers a chance to finish the incomplete paintings.

"The planets have come down to Earth," Orelove said. "Now you can learn a little bit about astronomy just by taking a walk."

Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at

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