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SOLAR SYSTEM WALK
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|Solar Walk dedicated to astronomy lover
Chandler Man helped design 2,500-foot path
by Weldon B. Johnson
Jul. 6, 2012 The Republic /azcentral.com
When doctors diagnosed Howard Israel with Stage 4 lung cancer last year, his family and friends
wanted to honor him in a way that would continue his efforts to educate people about astronomy.
So, they built a solar walk, a 2,500-foot scale representation of the solar system, that is being installed
on the path around the lake at Veterans Oasis Park.
Israel, 78, will be on hand as the Chandler Solar System Walk is dedicated. The public is invited to the
ceremony at 8 a.m. Saturday at the park on the northeastern corner of Chandler Heights and Lindsay
"Can you imagine having something being dedicated to you while you're still alive?" said Israel, an
Ahwatukee resident. "That's pretty cool, I would say. I even helped design the thing. I've been
intimately involved in writing the copy for the signs, designing the handout brochures. I was actively
involved in this thing. It was like doing it for somebody else."
In fact, Israel is doing this for others: the people who will enjoy it and learn about the solar system for
years to come.
Israel became interested in astronomy after what he describes as a life-changing moment while on a
South Pacific cruise with his wife almost 20 years ago.
On that ship one night, he came across a navigator looking up at the stars. Israel asked him what he
was looking at. The navigator explained and Israel found himself hooked on astronomy.
He became so immersed in his new hobby that he began to share his knowledge. Israel became an
active member of the East Valley Astronomy Club, worked at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff
during the summer and, in recent years, taught astronomy classes at the Environmental Education
Center at Veterans Oasis Park.
The Chandler Solar System Walk is a series of concrete monuments and signs representing the sun,
the eight planets and other significant objects in the solar system. Israel's friends and family have
raised more than $25,000 for the design and construction of the project as well as for the support of
other astronomy events at the Environmental Education Center.
Israel said the solar walk will be among the best in the area for its size and the information it will
"As a point of comparison, the Pluto Walk at Lowell Observatory, that thing is 300 feet," Israel said.
"When you compare a 300-foot solar walk to a (2,500)-foot solar walk, there is a vast difference. Our
goal is to make it, what I consider, a world-class solar walk."
Sharyn Younger, Israel's daughter, said it was important to the family for Israel to give his input into
the design of the walk. She said she believes that it has helped her father deal with his illness.
"Sometimes, I wonder what he would be doing with his time if it he wasn't hounding us with, 'Hey, did
you think about this? Did you think about that? I've been doing some research,' " Younger said. "This
has really kept him really occupied and very engaged. It's something for him to really look forward to
and to strive to be able to make. It has worked out on any number of levels."
Dedication of the Chandler Solar System Walk is 8 a.m. Saturday near the northwestern corner of the
lake at Veterans Oasis Park, Chandler Heights and Lindsay roads.
The solar walk is a scale representation of the major objects in the solar system set up along a
2,500-foot pathway around the lake. The objects are spaced at distances relative to their scale in the
solar system. Each foot represents 1.5 million miles in space. For example, the distance between the
earth and the sun along the solar walk will be 62 feet, representing the actual 93 million miles.
The Chandler Solar System Walk is a privately funded educational project designed to promote
astronomy in Veterans Oasis Park.
Information about the Environmental Education Center and Veterans Oasis Park:
July 28, 1934 - Aug. 31, 2012
Please visit and experience the astronomy
education project that is Howard's legacy!