Hi, there! My name is Brianna McKinzie, and I am a fourth-year Women’s Studies major, minoring in Mathematics and UF Teach: Secondary Math Education. This will be my third year working summers at the Florida Museum, and I’ve called Gainesville home for the past four years and I think it is chock full of neat places to see when you look closely enough!
Last week we learned about Loblolly Nature Park, which is a beautiful local spot. With social distancing still in effect, I have looked more closely at Gainesville, in an effort to get myself out of the house. Close to Loblolly is another Gainesville science-related landmark, the Solar Walk down 8th Avenue. The best part about these two outdoor opportunities is that one leads right into the other! Loblolly Woods trail lets out right onto 8th Avenue.
The Solar Walk stretches down 8th Avenue in Gainesville from 34th St to 22nd St, just a few streets down from the Florida Museum and the University of Florida Campus. The Solar Walk has been standing tall since March 2002, composed of the Sun, eight planets, Pluto, and two comets.
The comets were not added to the Solar Walk until later in 2008. The statues for each planet stand tall, with informational stands at the beginning and end of the stretch. When I started at the beginning of the walk, the first statue I came across was the Sun. I looked down the road and could not see Pluto clearly from the beginning, but it soon came into sight.
My favorite statue to visit was not actually a planet but one of the comets, Halley Perihelion. This statue can be found between Venus and Mercury. It was a bit of a surprise coming upon the comet between the planets, quickly it appeared after starting the walk. I also think the comet statue is special because it takes a different form than the planet statues, which are big hunky columns.
When I got home, I researched the Solar Walk so I could tell you more about it! One of the neatest facts I found was a math one, which intrigued me because numbers always seem to make connections for me. The scale of the walk is 4 billion to one, which in my head is very hard to imagine. When I started to put the numbers into perspective, I found some very cool facts! The first is that when we think of 4 billion seconds in comparison to each moment passing, 4 billion seconds would take almost 127 years. This made me think about the sheer mass and size of the universe.
It’s a crazy world we live in, and in this vastly huge solar system Gainesville is a tiny point. However, it is a very exciting point with a little taste of the solar system in our backyards! I definitely recommend checking out the Solar Walk for a nice stroll and a little perspective!