I was trying to describe how vast the largest known star is to someone and felt I wasn't quite able to relate the scale difference. I know it's roughly 1500 times larger than the sun. Anyone know of a good analogy?
After some playing around with wolfram alpha and google my best comparison has been
The sun compared to VY Canis Majoris is like a donut compared to the London Eye.
The London Eye is about 120m in diameter, this divided by 1500 is about 8cm which is roughly the diameter of a ring donut.
On the banana scale, it's an ore freighter.
Every physicist worth their salt knows that the most important scale in the galaxy is the banana. Now, your average banana is between 7-8 inches in length.
Approximately the same shape are the ore freighters that go on the Great Lakes. They're called 1000 footers because, go figure, they're roughly 1000 feet long. The banana is to the freighter as the sun is to YV Canis Major.
Here's a picture of one of those freighters. Now imagine one of the workers is having lunch, eating a banana.
An airplane flying along the surface of the sun would take about 6.6 months to circle it once.
The same airplane would take 787 years to complete one trip around VY Canis Majoris.
Aircraft's speed: 900 km / h
Sun's radius: 696,000 km
One circle around the sun: 4,373,096.97 km
Time for aircraft to complete this circle: 4858 hours ≈ 6.6 months
VY Canis Majoris radius: 988,320,000 km
One circle around VY Canis Majoris: 6,209,797,703 km
Time for aircraft to complete this circle: 6899775.225 hours ≈ 787.645 years!
PS: Looks like the math done in one of the videos shared in the comments above is incorrect :)
Depends a bit on whether you want to compare diameters or volume (3D).
For radius, consider that it's approximately 6.6 A.U., so if you dropped it into the Solar System it'd extend out to well past Jupiter's orbit.
Or it's the ratio of a standard tenpin bowling ball to the point of a sewing needle
The volumetric ratio is 1420^2 or about 2 million to one. That's roughly one person out of the entire population of Houston, TX. Or the ratio of 100 liters of water to a single drop from an eyedropper.
You should look at Mark Rober's video, he uses a size comparaison known by
everybodyevery American: a football field!
Assuming the Sun is a normal soccer ball...
- Earth is a pinhead at 26 yards (23m) away from the Sun/ball.
- Jupiter is a grape at 135 yards (123m) away from the Sun/ball, almost the size of the field.
- Saturn is a smaller grape at "2,5 football fields away from the Sun/ball", which is almost 300 yards (274m)
- At 6:02 of the video, "the largest star known" would be the size of the Empire State Building: 381m (416 yards)
I think both the ore freighter / banana and donut / London Eye comparisons have scales that are relatable but lack "universality" in the sense that people may not know the size of the London Eye or an ore freighter. I'd suggest thumbnail vs bus, as both exist all over the world.