The Anchorage Light Speed Planet Walk
Location: Starts at Alaska Center for Performing Arts (5th Ave & G St, Anchorage AK)
When to visit: Anytime during daylight hours
Time needed: 15 minutes to six hours, depending how many of the planet markers you want to see
Astronomy nerds, take note! Downtown Anchorage, Alaska has a very cool cosmic attraction: A scale-model representation of our solar system: The Anchorage Planet Walk!
The city set up a marker at 5th Avenue & G Street (at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts) to represent the Sun. Then, they created stations for each of the planets. What makes this setup cool is that each step is calculated to equal the distance light travels in one second (roughly 186,000 miles or 300,000 kms.)
This means that since it takes eight minutes for a beam of light to get from the Sun to Earth, it will take you eight minutes to walk from the Sun marker to the Earth marker. Each planet station has photos and facts about the featured planet. You can play out light travel in real time as you walk down 5th Avenue!
The first four planets are located very close together, just as they are in real life. You can walk from the Sun to the Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars planet markers in less than 13 minutes. But after that, the planets start becoming quite far apart.
The Jupiter marker is a 43-minute walk from downtown, while Uranus is 2 hours and 42 minutes away. You’ll have to do quite a bit of walking or driving if you plan to see all the planets!
For any crazy people who want to walk all the way to Pluto (which isn’t officially a planet anymore, we know), you’ll have to set aside 5 hours and 30 minutes to walk all the way down to Kincaid Chalet. That signifies the 5.5 hours it takes for light to reach Pluto from the Sun.
Not many cities have an attraction dedicated to astronomy education, so the Anchorage Planet Walk is a nifty little landmark. Don’t miss it while you’re walking around town!
Here’s your map from the Anchorage Planet Walk brochure. Good luck finding them all!
The planet walk has an interesting history. It was created in the mid ’00s by high school student Eli Menaker. That’s the cool thing about a city the size of Anchorage – it’s still small enough that one student can make a real difference!
Anchorage’s Planet Walk was inspired by the Carl Sagan Memorial Planet Walk in Ithaca, New York.
While you’re in Alaska, see our guides to the Alaska Veterans Memorial, the July 4 celebration in Anchorage, backcountry camping in Denali National Park, visiting Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the best Alaska road trips, and visiting the quirky towns of Chicken and Talkeetna. Also see 35 fun facts about Alaska, and our detailed post on how much it costs to visit Alaska!
Have you ever visited a planet walk before?