How far away from the solar system to see all of it?
I thought of this question because...you would see in any space show, the ship would arrive at a solar system that they haven't explored yet, and they would instantly know how many planets there were. I always thought that was a bit of a stretch. As Douglas Adams would say, "Space is BIG".
They would have to study a system for a period of time before they could be able to find all the planets, never mind determine their make up or level of civilization.
So, I asked the question to AI.
Here was the answer:
AI Search wrote:That's a tricky question because the solar system doesn't have a clear boundary. It depends on how you define the edge of the solar system. One possible way to define it is by using the heliopause, which is the point where the solar wind from the Sun is balanced by the interstellar medium. The heliopause is estimated to be about 123 AU (18 billion kilometers) from the Sun on average¹. Another possible way to define it is by using the orbit of the most distant known object in the solar system, which is currently 2018 AG37, also known as Farfarout. This object has an aphelion (farthest point from the Sun) of about 175 AU (26 billion kilometers)².
To see all of the solar system at once, you would need to be far enough away that the entire diameter of the solar system fits within your field of view. Assuming a human eye has a field of view of about 60 degrees, you can use some trigonometry to calculate how far away you would need to be. If you use the heliopause as the edge of the solar system, you would need to be about 246 AU (37 billion kilometers) away from the Sun to see it all at once. That's about 4 light hours³. If you use Farfarout's orbit as the edge of the solar system, you would need to be about 350 AU (52 billion kilometers) away from the Sun to see it all at once. That's about 6 light hours³.
Of course, even if you were that far away, you would have a hard time seeing anything because most of the objects in the solar system are very faint and small compared to the vast distances between them. You would probably only see the Sun as a bright star and maybe some of the giant planets as tiny dots. The rest of the planets, moons, asteroids and comets would be invisible to the naked eye.
Source: Conversation with Bing, 6/23/2023
(1) Cosmic Distances – NASA Solar System Exploration. https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/1230/ ... distances/.
(2) Student Video: Solar System Size and Distance | NASA/JPL Edu. https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/learn/vide ... -distance/.
(3) How Big Is the Solar System?. https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/1164/ ... ar-system/.
(4) In Depth | Hypothetical Planet X – NASA Solar System Exploration. https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/hy ... /in-depth/.