A group is preparing to take a tour of the solar system without ever leaving Oak Bay.
The inaugural Vancouver Island Walk of the Inner Planets is set for March 15, when a group of sky watchers will stroll along a scale-replica journey through our planetary neighbours.
“First of all, it’s a great way to explore Oak Bay. A good part of the route is along the Centennial Trail that was created in 2000,” said walk organizer Bill Smith. “But more than that, it’s to get people talking about the planets.”
Smith devised the idea of a scale-replica model of the solar system not long after the Cattle Point Star Park was created in Oak Bay to raise awareness of the problem of light pollution.
“I wanted to create some reason why people might want to go there during the day when they can’t see the stars,” he said. “How do I make these buses of tourists stop there?”
He at first wanted to create a model of the solar system at Cattle Point but was informed it would be impossible to get permission for any more cairns along the water. But that wasn’t enough to stop Smith, who instead simply shifted his model to a much larger scale.
With Cattle Point representing the sun, Mercury is at Willows Beach, Venus at the Oak Bay Native Plant Garden, Earth at Anderson Park, Mars at Gonzales Lookout, Jupiter at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Saanich, Saturn at the Sooke Potholes, Uranus at China Beach, Neptune at Port Renfrew and Pluto at Bamfield.
“We now have the world’s biggest orrery [planetary model],” said Smith. “On the same scale, the edge of the solar system is called the Oort Cloud, and the Oort Cloud is at the Canadian Embasy in Beijing.”
But the March 15 walk will stick to the inner planets so passports won’t be required.
For the purpose of the walk, Oak Bay’s municipal hall will be substituted for Jupiter’s moon Europa, and it is there the walk will start at 10 a.m. It will travel along Foul Bay Road (the asteroid belt), before going on to Gonzales Lookout, Blueberry Hill, the Native Plant Garden across from the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, past the marina to Willows Beach and back to the Village along Bowker Creek, stopping for refreshments at the conclusion.
Smith estimates the walk will take between two and three hours.
“I did it with my dog and it was really quite easy,” he said. “I don’t want people to be intimidated.”
Those wanting to participate in the walk are asked to meet at the municipal hall at 10 a.m. March 15. You can view some of the sights from along the walk at http://imgur.com/a/bDcmY#0.