Solar Walk Project Planned for Promenade

Physics Professor Henry Kuhlman is leading a project to build a scaled model of the Solar System along the Promenade. Because the project is still undergoing feasibility studies, the cost, design and date of construction have not been confirmed yet. 

The project team plans to name it the “Hefferlin Solar Walk” in honor of the late Ray Hefferlin, former professor and chair of the Physics and Engineering Department. 

Hefferlin began teaching at Southern in the fall semester of 1955. He officially retired in 1996, but continued to teach as an adjunct professor until his death on March 7, 2015. 

According to Kuhlman, Hefferlin desired to build a scaled model of the Solar System for students but was unable to implement it because of his busy schedule.

“Dr. Hefferlin dreamed of this his whole life, but wasn’t able to do it,” Kuhlman said. “We want to fulfill one of his dreams.”

According to the current blueprints, the walk would begin in front of the Hickman Science Center with models of the sun and the four terrestrial planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. The planets’ models would be positioned at a scaled distance along the Promenade according to the planets’ actual distance from the sun. Each solar body’s model would contain a plaque listing identifying information such as its name, size, temperature and rotation time. A QR code leading to more information on NASA’s website would also be included on the plaque.

The walk would continue with a model representing Jupiter positioned between the new Bietz Center for Student Life – currently under construction – and the McKee Library. Saturn would be positioned in front of Hackman Hall, Uranus in front of Daniells Hall, and Neptune at the north end of the Promenade by Brock Hall. 

“Pictures don’t convey the immensity of [the Solar System] as much as this would,” Kuhlman said. “We want to bring the reality of the Solar System more down to earth.”

“We hope that this will be a focal point for campus,” said Ken Caviness, current chair of the Physics and Engineering Department. “We want to put some science out there to honor Dr. Hefferlin for all the contributions he made to the institution.”