Solar System Squeezed into Library Pit


Campus visitors wanting to explore the solar system now have two options: they can take in a show at the planetarium, or they can gaze into the library pit.

In late spring, an “Introduction to the Visual Arts” class completed and installed a sculpture project in the courtyard area south of Pickler Memorial Library. Danielle Yakle, assistant professor of art, has had her classes complete similar projects in recent years, including the Quad Kraken, the acorns and a collection of organs. This year, Student Government contacted the class about helping with their initiative to improve the pit.  

“One of the guiding parameters of the project was that it needed to look good from above. Since the space is not fully accessible we wanted to make something people could enjoy just by looking at it from the exterior railings,” Yakle said. “Thematically this solar system sculpture is intended to relate to the nearby planetarium.”  

Those who do venture into the pit for a closer look are free to take a rest on their favorite planet. Each hemisphere is constructed with a steel frame, covered in concrete and embellished with glass mosaic. Similar to the public benches last year, they are more than sturdy enough to double as seating.

One of the biggest challenges of the project was deciding on the scale of the planets and the distances between them. Yakle sought the help of two fellow professors to rectify the problem.

“If we had simply scaled everything down equally to fit in the space none of the planets would have been visible. Even the sun would have been just over a quarter of an inch in diameter – about the size of a pencil eraser,” Yakle said. “We consulted with Vayujeet Gokhale from physics and Don Bindner from mathematics to find solutions to this issue and to make sure our representation could appeal to informed astronomy students as well as the rest of the student body.”  

A hot topic for debate in class was whether Pluto should be included.

“Students still feel a nostalgic attachment to the dwarf planet, but when we realized how extremely far away objects in the Kuiper belt are, and how this would affect our scale, Pluto was nixed.”

While previous projects were installed on a temporary basis, there are no immediate plans to remove the sculpture from the pit.