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Gainesville offers 1.8-mile long walking tour of solar system
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Jessica Miller, right, and Laura Wilson, both pathology specialists at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center, read a plaque on Thursday along the solar system walking tour in Gainesville. The walk, which begins in downtown Gainesville and ends near Longwood Park, is a scale model of the solar system. - photo by David Barnes

The recent total eclipse of the sun in our area has had many looking up to admire the stars and celestial bodies.

If you’ve been turned on with the breathtaking, seemingly perfect symmetry of the universe, then it’s time to become reacquainted with one of Gainesville’s often overlooked attractions — the Solar Walk.

The 1.8-mile made to scale walking tour of our solar system is a gift to the city by the North Georgia Astronomers.

Solar Walk

What: 1.8 mile scale tour of the solar system

Where: Begins on the downtown square and ends on Lake Lanier at Longwood Park

How much: Free

More info: 770-531-2664, 770-531-6598

Inspired by a partial eclipse of the sun in February 1998, members of NGA came up with the idea of finding a place to instal a scale model of the solar system for its “Millennial Project.”

The group contacted Gainesville city officials with their idea after they discovered that 1.8-mile distance from the downtown square to the end of Longwood Park on Lake Lanier would be a perfect scale model —  1:2,000,000,000 walking tour of the solar system.

On a sunny afternoon, three co-workers at Northeast Georgia Health System were surprised to learn that Gainesville has such an attraction. The young pathology techs — Laura Wilson, Keri Sanders and Jessica Miller — agreed they would take the time one day to do the tour together.

“It’s great exercise, and you get to learn more about our solar system,” Sanders said. 

On Dec. 31, 1999, on the eve of the new millennium, the North Georgia Astronomers had the monument of the earth and moon erected at Main and Washington streets on the square. They immediately engaged the community to get involved to help underwrite the project.

More than 100 donated $30 each to pay for the earth and moon markers downtown. NGA members also found many willing sponsors for each of the planets, including many Gainesville-Hall County public and private schools.

By the early spring of 2001, the final granite markers were set on their foundations to complete the scale model. It is one of five in the nation.

Michael Graham, deputy director of Gainesville Parks and Recreation, said the solar walk is a great way to visit the city’s parks via the greenway.

“You literally start from downtown square and you walk all the way through the greenway,” Graham said. “You can stop along the way, you see markers for the planets and the asteroid belts. It’s a great way to enjoy the city.” 

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