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Take a Solar System 'Road Trip' with Astronaut Chris Hadfield in 'Miniverse'

In the online movie "Miniverse," the solar system is shrunk down to the size of the continental United States. Here, Mars hovers over New York City. (Image credit: <a href="" target="_blank">CuriosityStream</a>)

Retired astronaut Chris Hadfield is taking a road trip across the United States — and a journey through the solar system — in a new online movie set to be released in April.

The solar system is big. Really, really big. To help people better grasp the scale of the Earth's planetary neighborhood, the new movie "Miniverse" scales down the solar system to the size of the continental United States. 

In the online movie "Miniverse," former astronaut Chris Hadfield and astronomer Laura Danly look at Pluto looming over a California pier. (Image credit: CuriosityStream)

To explore this minisystem, Hadfield, who is perhaps best known for his rendition of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" aboard the International Space Station, takes a road trip from the East Coast to the West Coast — or, on the solar system scale, the sun all the way out to Pluto (a total average distance of about 3.7 billion miles, or 5.9 billion kilometers). He uses the road trip to teach viewers about the truly enormous size of the solar system, as well as what it would be like to actually visit the planets. 

Periodically, Hadfield is joined by a few passengers: Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist and New York Times best-selling author; Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer and director of the Fels Planetarium at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia; and Laura Danly, an astronomer and the curator at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

In the online movie "Miniverse," former astronaut Chris Hadfield and astronomer Laura Danly look at Pluto looming over a California pier. (Image credit: CuriosityStream)

Whenever Hadfield and his guests arrive at the location of another planet, a giant image of that planet is superimposed on the screen, so the massive globes look as if they were hovering in the sky just above Earth. Mars hangs in the sky over New York City; Jupiter hovers above Washington, D.C., and Pluto is visible from a pier on the California coast. This visual trick further illustrates the size of the planets and the distances between them.

"Miniverse" will be available to subscribers on CuriosityStream, an online video provider, beginning April 20. Subscriptions start at $2.99 per month, and new users can receive one month free.

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Calla Cofield
Calla Cofield joined the crew of in October, 2014. She enjoys writing about black holes, exploding stars, ripples in space-time, science in comic books, and all the mysteries of the cosmos. She has been underground at three of the largest particle accelerators in the world. She'd really like to know what the heck dark matter is. Prior to joining Calla worked as a freelance science writer. Her work has appeared in APS News, Symmetry magazine, Scientific American, Nature News, Physics World, and others. From 2010 to 2014 she was a producer for The Physics Central Podcast. Previously, Calla worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (hands down the best office building ever) and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. Calla studied physics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is originally from Sandy, Utah. Contact Calla via: E-Mail – Twitter