What is it all about?
The project aims to install a large scale-model of the solar system in the region of Ciudad Rodrigo.
The scale model is not simply an end in itself, but much more, it is a tool for carrying out activities aimed at promoting the region as a tourist destination and developing educational and scientific outreach activities in the area.
Not only will it be the first permanent, large-scale, three-dimensional model in Spain, but it will also be, without doubt, one of the most ambitious and complete in the world. In the next few lines we will explain why.
The elements of the system
With a diameter of 4.80 m and made up of about 2000 brass hands, the Sun will be located in Ciudad Rodrigo’s emblematic Árbol Gordo traffic island and Pluto will be about 25 kilometres away. To give you an idea, the diameter of the Sun of most of the scale models of the solar system anywhere in the world is between 1 and 2 metres.
The planets and their moons (15 in total) will float in monoliths comprising a corten steel base crowned by an armoured glass cube. An explanatory poster will be next to each monolith and there will be a sign showing where the other elements of the model are. The monoliths will be fitted with internal illumination for night visits.
The miniatures of the planets and moons will be made using high quality 3D printing technology to reproduce all their details. Jupiter, the largest planet, will have a diameter of 48 centimetres.
The nearest planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) will form the basis for a tour of the eastern part of the wall that guards the historic city, thereby putting the wall on the map.
We have developed a scale so that each planet, beyond Mars, is located in a village in the region. Jupiter will be found in Ivanrey, Saturn in Sanjuanejo and Uranus in Carpio de Azaba. We will be able to find Neptune right next to the interpretation centre of Siega Verde. Finally, Pluto will be in Portugal, near the Vilar Formoso train station.
At the speed of light!
At the scale we’ve chosen, light travels at 4 kilometres per hour. This means, for example, that a person taking a walk at normal speed between the Sun and Mercury, its nearest planet, will take two minutes. That’s exactly how long it takes light to travel that distance in our real solar system. Therefore, we will be visiting the Solar System at the speed of light!
You can visit or take a tour of the Solar System in several ways. The project is supported by the Association of Tourist Guides of Ciudad Rodrigo. In addition, four members of Astróbriga took part in a Starlight Foundation training course at the end of 2019 and are now recognised astronomy tour monitors. More members will be trained in 2020.
These resources facilitate the mixing and matching of different and complementary cultural and educational tourism activities, such as getting to know the historical heritage of Ciudad Rodrigo, the Fortification Tour or the palaeolithic site of Siega Verde (World Heritage Site), as well as daytime astronomical observations or night sky stargazing.
As outreach is important to us, we have a useful educational tool: people coming to see the elements of the system can use their smartphones to see the Solar System in augmented reality. Pointing the phone to an element, will show audiovisual information and animations on the screen, adding educational value to complement and add-value to the experience.
A project with an educational mission
Education is one of the priority elements of the project. In fact, several teachers are actively engaged in the project. Within this framework, didactic tools are being developed for use in schools — tools relating astronomy to other disciplines such as physics, mathematics, plastic arts, biology, history, etc. Three educational centres in the region are officially supporting the project: Fray Diego Tadeo Secondary School, CEIP Miróbriga, and Las Batuecas Secondary School (La Alberca). Also, the Association of Tourist Guides of Ciudad Rodrigo will offer specific guided events for educational entities.
Diversification of the tourism offering: astrotourism or astronomical tourism.
Astrotourism is growing in Spain and has the potential to provide new sources of income in the region. By the end of 2019, an estimated 800,000 people will have undertaken some form of astrotourism in Spain, that is, every year there are hundreds of thousands of tourists in Spain seeing the stars.
A night sky made for star gazing
… and, precisely, the region of Ciudad Rodrigo has an excellent night sky for observing the heavens. If we preserve this feature and make it more widely known, we will have many elements in our hands to attract people interested in astronomy.
In fact, we are in contact with the Starlight Foundation, created by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and which, with another entity located in the United States, is the only institution that can certify the quality of the sky anywhere in the world. We are working with them and the city council of Ciudad Rodrigo to evaluate the possibility of certifying the region as a Star Park.
Outreach activities will be carried within the framework of this scale solar system project. Several astronomers have already been brought on board and have committed themselves to undertaking these outreach actions.
The project receives multilateral support
Support from the scientific community
Astróbriga has the valuable support of Javier Rodriguez-Pacheco Martín, astrophysicist and professor at the University of Alcalá. Javier, who grew up in Ciudad Rodrigo, is the principal investigator of the energetic particle detector of the Solar Orbiter launched from Cape Canaveral on 10 February 2020. When he found out about our activities, Javier contacted us. He is now an active member, honorary chair of the association and sponsor of the project.
Antonia Varela, researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and director of the Starlight Foundation, Sebastián Sánchez Prieto, researcher at the University of Alcalá who participated in several ESA and NASA missions, Fernando Buitrago, researcher from Salamanca who works at the Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço in Lisbon, as well as Laura Delgado Martín, Diego Corrochano Fernández, Pablo Herrero Teijón, Santiago Andrés Sánchez and Camilo Ruiz Méndez, who are all members of the Department of Didactics of Mathematics and Experimental Sciences of the University of Salamanca and have expressed their willingness to do outreach work within the framework of the project.
Support from other institutions
We have the support of Valladolid Science Museum, the Spanish Federation of Astronomic Associations, the Europlanet Society, the journal Revista Astronomía, the Starlight Foundation, and the Association for the Teaching of Astronomy.
Support in Salamanca
We are developing the project in close collaboration with Council of Ciudad Rodrigo, and with the Association of Tourist Guides of Ciudad Rodrigo as well as with three educational centres in the area currently committed to the project. The Aldea Social Centre, another non-profit association, is working with us closely.
Our aim is to continue to expand and multiply this kind of support to foster the development of the different phases of this venture.
Where are we at now?
The technical proposal was completed early 2020.
Our team, composed of three local architects and a telecommunications engineer, produced a technical document that precisely details the technical aspects of the project.
On 4 March 2020 the project was also approved by the Heritage Commission of the Province of Salamanca, an essential step for its subsequent implementation.
We also have produced a detailed budget. The scale model is priced at 86,000 euros not including the virtual reality tool, which we can add in a second stage.
With regard to the financing of the project:
At the beginning of February 2021, we have almost the necessary budget to carry out the first phase of the project.
The local population is also contributing to the funding of the project through our “Give us a hand” programme.
The city council of Ciudad Rodrigo is actively supporting the project.