Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Night Sky

As a kid I was always fascinated with the night sky. I recollect nights where I would spend hours, with a flashlight and a book of constellations, trying to map it out. There would also be nights where I would just look up and think. It has been a long time since I have spent hours looking up at the night sky. On occasions, I would take a quick glance and still be fascinated by it.

Astronomy is the study of celestial objects. In Astronomy, the numbers are what amaze me. I must point out that Math and I have never had a great relationship. However, I understand sizes and distances. The scale of the Universe is so enormous that it gets hard to comprehend distances. Astronomers use the distance light travels in a year as a unit of measurement, which is 186,000 miles per second.

To get an idea of the scale of the Universe, imagine traveling at the speed of light in a spaceship. It would take 8 minutes to reach the sun. If you continued onward you’d arrive yo Pluto in 5 and a half hours. To reach the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, it would take over 4 years. If seeing the nearest galaxy was your goal then it would take 2.5 million years to get there.

Think about it, we have been told that the speed of light is the fastest speed imaginable. Yet, there is no possible way a human can live long enough to reach the nearest galaxy. In retrospect, light isn’t really all that fast. It all comes back to the distances these celestial objects are from each other. Most people have heard that the stars we see at night are as they appeared ages ago. I always find myself asking, what do they look like now?

From the smallest to the biggest things the numbers are incredible. The celestial objects are not there as decoration or for amusement. They allow us to see where we live among the rest. Look up at the night sky, appreciate that it’s there. Think about the distances and you might get some perspective.

Click the image

Image Credit: I have no idea where I got it from. I found the image years ago. Whoever made it, I give you credit.

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