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Monday, March 24, 2008

Vastness

So, you think you are important. You think you are significant? You think that anything matters?

Whats that? You do?!?!?! Really??? Well consider this.

The size of just the solar system. On January 19, 2006 NASA launched the New Horizons mission to Pluto. It is moving at one million miles a day. The fastest object ever launched by humans. But even at this speed, it will not reach Pluto until July 14, 2015. Right now it is close to or just past Jupiter - where it is probably going to get a gravity speed boost.

But that is not all! Oh no. Beyond Pluto there is more stuff. And then beyond that stuff is the heliopause - the area of space where the influence of the sun ends. Beyond this point the background radiation of interstellar space rules over the solar wind created by the sun. The Voyager spacecraft have just recently detected this area - but they are not there yet.

And then that is just ONE solar system. The galaxy contains hundreds of millions - maybe hundreds of BILLIONS - of other stars. Other solar systems. Even if these stars have no planets around them, they will still create a solar wind and will still have a heliopause. Our lone galaxy is about 100,000 light years across.

But of course there is more to the story. There is the local group, which contains out galaxy, two dwarf galaxies in orbit around the Milky Way (only visible from south of the equator), and some other galaxies like Andromeda and stuff. And then there is the Virgo Supercluster - which contains hundreds of galaxies.

And that is not all!

Just recently, the most distant object visible to the naked eye made an appearance. A supernova appeared in the night sky. It is gone now and it is likely not many people saw it - and those who did had no idea what it was. It was no brighter than a star in the little dipper. But you could see it unaided. No telescope or binoculars needed.

And this supernova was an astonishing 7.5 BILLION light years away. This star exploded before the Earth even formed. For 7.5 billion years, the light has been making its way along. And it still is. Long after humans are extinct, long after our sun goes nova and vaporizes the Earth - that light will still be traveling through space.

Still think the commute to work today matters in the slightest?

6 Comments:

Blogger cathouse teri said...

If you haven't yet heard it, listen to Clint Black's "Galaxy Song." Find it with the intro, if possible. Or I can send to you, if you like.

10:37  
Blogger Doozie said...

This sort of stuff boggles my brain and sends me into septic shock

20:55  
Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

Teri - The Monty Python Universe Song is on my Iguana Music play list. Does that count?

Doozie - it does not boggle my mind. I must be boggle proof. Or something.

23:46  
Blogger ponder this said...

all that stuff used to interest me when i was at school. it still does, but i'm way outta my depth with it,....i'm having enough trouble trying to tie your fishing knots!

01:27  
Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

Ponder - so you are the other person who has actually tried to learn some of those knots? I have learned 4 of em :)

03:07  
Blogger Cheesemeister said...

I already KNEW my commute to work didn't matter in the slightest. Trouble is, I can't get the employer to see it my way and STILL pay me!

01:04  

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