January 27, 2012

Totem Poles and Golf Balls


This totem pole, one of the tallest in the world stands 127.5 feet tall. It seems to reach for the sky. It might even appear that it reaches for the stars.

If this is what it looks like, it does not even get anywhere close. It would take 995,873,684,210,526 of these totem poles lined up end to end to get to the nearest star.

In space distances are so huge that they are measured in light years. Light travels at 300,000 kilometers per second. It takes about 1 second to get to the moon, 8 minutes from the sun to the earth, and 5 hours 20 minutes to get from the sun to Pluto.

The nearest star, Alpha Proxima, is just under 4 light years from our sun. Our galaxy is around 80,000 light years across. The most distant object we can see with our eyes is 2,000,000 light years away, the Andromeda Galaxy. The most distant object we have detected is 13,200,000,000 light years away.

Space is a really big place.


In my mind, the largest relationship i can fathom is the earth and the moon. You can draw both the earth and the moon to scale on a piece of paper, and put them the right distance apart for that scale. I can fathom that. the relationship between our sun and the nearest star would be like taking a golf ball representing our sun, and then taking another golf ball, representing the nearest star. To put these at the right distance apart for their scale, the balls would need to be about 250km apart. And at that scale the earth is about the size of a grain of sand.

As I said before; Space is a really big place.

Enough about that. I took this photo at Beacon Hill park. Just behind the trees on the left is Polaris. The 2 minute exposure lets you see the motion of the stars start to form a circle.

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