October 31st, 2020

City council approves project that’s out of this world

By Kalinowski, Tim on December 13, 2019.

Lethbridge City Council approved sites for the new solar system project with the clock tower downtown as the sun, four city properties for inner planets with models of those planets on site, and Lethbridge county hosting outer planets. Herald photo by Greg Bobinec @GBobinecHerald

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald


When spring comes again Lethbridge residents should begin hearing the music of the spheres, or at least the music of the wind whistling past the spheres, with city council approving four downtown municipal sites to host stainless steel models of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars as part of a much larger solar system project.

City council approved placement of a tennis ball-sized Earth model on a post at the downtown fire station, and smaller models of Mercury at the Lethbridge Public Library, Venus at the Civic Commons outside city hall, and Mars at the Galt Museum during Monday’s council meeting.

The dome of the downtown clock tower will stand in for Sol, our sun, with models of the four other outer planets being placed at the University of Lethbridge, Chinook High School, Broxburn Vegetables and Cafe and Park Lake.

“There is immense educational value (in this project), and I think most people, unless you study astronomy, don’t realize how big space is,” explained Tom Anderson, president of the Lethbridge Astronomy Society, who presented the request to use municipal property to council on Monday. “And even in our own tiny, little neighbourhood of the solar system it is huge. If we are to imagine the dome of the post office (downtown) to be the size of the sun, which is 5.5 metres, we find the most distant planet (Neptune) at that scale is going to be located out in Park Lake.”

The scale of the planetary models will be based on their relative size and location in reference to the clock tower dome. Anderson foresees some tourism and recreational activity centred around visiting all the locations in order – like a large-scale scavenger hunt or geocache.

“They can tour the solar system right here in Lethbridge, and it will be the biggest (to scale model) in Canada,” Anderson explained. “It opens a whole lot of opportunities for recreation.”

The cost of the project is covered by grant funding from several sources, said Klaus Jericho, who first began pitching his vision for the solar system model about six years ago. He admitted he hadn’t expected it to take quite this long to finally bring it to life. Needless to say, Jericho was happy with council’s decision on Monday, and eager to get started on the build later this spring.

“I feel very satisfied today,” he said. “We have enough money to complete the project, and not ask for any tax money. We hope to put these things into the ground as soon as the ground thaws again.”

Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

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John P Nightingale