The applet "Visualize planets' orbits" (VisPlanetOrbit) is combined with the "Calendar" applet (TimeBase). By changing the epoch, the visualization applet updates the new positions of the planets.
The "South" direction of the drawing (to the bottom) is pointing to the vernal equinox. This is the imaginary point where the Sun will be seen from Earth at the start of spring (first point of Aries, crossing of ecliptic and equatorial plane).
You are watching the solar system from a "south"-situated point, well outside the ecliptic plane.
Distances between the planets and planet's sizes are not to scale. They were chosen this way just to keep things together.
Pluto's orbit is determined by osculating orbital elements of July 11, 1997.
Dieter Egger, last update 2002-02-26