How far to Pluto on the Rio Grande? |

How far to Pluto on the Rio Grande?

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Heavenly bodies could greet users of the Rio Grande Trail between Aspen and Woody Creek if the Aspen High School Astronomy Club has its way.

The club has proposed a series of interpretive signs placed along the trail, creating a scale model of the solar system. Trail users would start in Aspen, near the post office, with the sun, and encounter Pluto in Woody Creek. The 7.8-mile journey doesn’t quite match the enormity of outer space – the distance from the sun to Pluto is 3.67 billion miles, said club adviser Travis Moore – but the planetary signs would be placed at the proper distances in keeping with the scale of the project.

The planets would also be represented in scale size, but the club isn’t proposing a 9-foot-7-inch-diameter orb representing the sun next to the trail, Moore assured members of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board of trustees on Thursday.

“We don’t want to turn the Rio Grande Trail into a series of billboards,” said board member Hawk Greenway.

The sign for the sun may simply instruct readers to imagine a ball that’s more than 9 feet in diameter, Moore said. Or, it may be possible to embed an image of that size into the trail itself, he said.

Of the other planets, Jupiter would be the largest, at 11.9 inches in diameter, in keeping with the proposed scale. Earth would be 1.1 inches in diameter.

Board members were enthused with the proposed project, but told Moore they want to seek a mock-up of a sign so they can get a better idea of what the stations will actually look like along the trail.

Each sign will offer information about the planet’s moons and placement in the solar system, according to Moore. The sign for Pluto, which has been “demoted” as a planet in the eyes of the International Astronomical Union, will explain its status, he said.

The club has done some fundraising for the project, intending to pay for creation and placement of the signs, but was looking for a conceptual nod from open space officials before proceeding, Moore said.

While most of the trail between Aspen and Woody Creek is controlled by the county, a small portion is in the city of Aspen. City open space officials will be consulted, as well, Moore said.

It’s possible, he said, that the signs could go up this summer if the project gets the go-ahead.


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