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The Space Signpost

It's always a good idea to know where you're going, whether heading down the shops or heading into space. If we were asked to point the way to a particular planet, most of us would simply point up, but a novel project called the 'Space Signpost' shows that this isn't always right.

Which way to Mars?

The rotating Space Signpost is a clever combination of computer programming and electronics that can be set up anywhere on Earth and points towards any object in the solar system you fancy, and like any good signpost it also tells you how far away it is. Though we tend to think of our solar system moving in a very slow, majestic, way, in fact it's constantly in quite rapid motion as the planets orbit the sun. The word 'planet' means wanderer in Greek, and the Space Signpost shows us that the planets can wander quite quickly to cover the distances they have to.

Real time, Real space

The current direction to a planet might be down towards the ground!

The Space Signpost is able to show both the direction and distance to your chosen planet. You can watch as the distance changes in real time – in reality the planets are moving relative to each other at some very high speeds. Also surprising for some the current direction to their planet may actually be down towards the ground. It's very easy to forget that the solar system is three-dimensional and that the planet's orbits aren't flat. The Space Signpost is a great example of taking a familiar idea, applying state-of-the-art technology and producing an experience that can change the way we thing about the world around us. So the next time you're planning a trek round the stars, don't forget your signpost to help give you a real feeling for our solar system neighbourhood.

You can read more on the Space Signpost and see some movies of it working at www.spacesignpost.com/