Orbital Outposts are real life locations across the state of Kansas that are within the elliptical orbit of each respective planet. Using the entire state of Kansas as our guide, the first four planets are all found in Johnson County, while Saturn’s orbit is at Wamego to the north and Chanute to the south.
Planets in our solar system have elliptical, rather than circular, orbits and a planet’s distance from the Sun varies throughout its orbit. The point at which the planet is closest to the Sun is called its perihelion, and the point at which it is farthest from the Sun is called its aphelion. Some planet’s orbits are more elliptical than others and so the difference between the perihelion and aphelion distances also changes. All of the orbital outposts for each of the planets on Kansas Cosmos are located within the range of the scaled perihelion and aphelion distances.
If we look at Jupiter, for example, its average orbital radius is 5.204 AU, which is equivalent to 79.8 km in our scaled model across Kansas. However, its aphelion orbital radius is 83.8 km (5.46 AU) and its perihelion orbital radius is 75.9 km (4.95 AU). So for each planet, we selected destinations that were anywhere between these ranges when measured from the Sun at Johnson County Community College (JCCC). The Kansas State Capitol building matches Jupiter’s orbital span and the Capitol’s dome matches the scaled size of Jupiter in the Kansas Cosmos.
While visiting Jupiter at the Capitol in Topeka, enjoy a spectacular view of the city after a 296 step climb to the top of the dome. Also along Jupiter’s orbit is the Crane Observatory at Washburn University which is open to the public during scheduled open viewing sessions.
Pluto’s orbit is so elliptical that Goodland and Colby fall within the planet’s aphelion and perihelion orbits. Sometimes Pluto is even closer to the Sun than Neptune!
The rings of Saturn are positively spinning at the Old Dutch Windmill at Wamego City Park. At 40 feet it is about the size of the ringed planet at our scale. With a heritage that dates back to 1872, and featuring several works of art, including a bas relief of the goddess of grain, Ceres. This is a most interesting stop on our voyage through the cosmos.
Visit Uranus’s orbit in Hutchinson and stop to see the Cosmosphere. As well as a space museum, the Cosmosphere is home to one of the first public planetariums in the central United States. Ever since 1962 when Patty Carey set up a planetarium projector and folding chairs inside of a poultry building of the Kansas State Fairgrounds. As the only Smithsonian-related museum in Kansas, it features the largest combined collection of United States and Soviet space race artifacts in the world. Experience the space race like never before and explore the stars in Hutchinson.
Our people say we come from those old stars.
Little ones of spirit on eagle’s wings.
These are the old songs, lets hum a few bars
Of epic creation The Great Elk Sings,
“All cells must come from preexisting cells,”
The small ones ask, “where do the cells come from?”
“The deep waters where Mon-zhon ga´-xe dwells.”
Now this celestial Elk’s work is done,
Sown by Golden Eagles across this plain
Reserved by creatures from across the sea,
For us to gather under purple rain,
That imprisons our spirit secretly.
Our star children wail, so sad but most proud,
With an ending that does H. G. Wells proud.
Learn more about Kansas and our Solar System at KansasCosmos.org.