The Thursday Thesis – 21/2/2019
As everybody knows, we live on a mis-shapen spinning ball of rock. It’s a very nice ball of rock, casually hurtling through space at a breathtaking 67,000 mph – that’s around 18 ½ miles per second; which is knocking on in anybody’s book.
But that’s just its orbital velocity – its speed around the massive ball of bad-tempered plasma and nuclear fusion reactions which we call The Sun.
That very same Sun is also in motion around the centre of our galaxy, at the brain-frazzling speed of 137 miles per second – that’s a whopping 493,200 mph. Naturally that means the numerous celestial bodies in orbit around The Sun are also zipping through space at stupidly fast speeds.
So, The Earth is doing 67,000 mph, plus 493,200 when travelling in the same plane as The Sun’s motion around galactic centre, for a total of 560,200 mph.
Now imagine yourself standing on the equator, where there speed of rotation around The Earth’s axis is greatest – just a smidge faster than 1000 mph.
Add that to The Sun’s meandering speed and Earth’s orbital velocity and we’re doing up to 561,200 mph while we sleep.
Now we have to remember that our own galaxy itself is in motion – at around 1.084 million miles per hour!
Stop The World – I want to get off!
That’s why I never tire of watching the stars at night in some remote nook or other. Sometimes there will be meteor showers, and every so often – for instance a few weeks ago – a lunar eclipse.
The sky is beautiful, magnificent, terrifying, unfathomably vast and ever-changing; sprinkle in the fireworks of meteors when we pass through the debris fields of ancient comets and it’s a sight like no other.
When was the last time you stood, silent and still, in the inky blackness and just looked upwards?
And here’s the thing: Go and do it. Grab a flask of steaming coffee and take yourself to a dark place, then sit back and just watch the skies. See what you see, drink it in and notice it.
If it makes you feel good, go “Wheeeeeehhhh!” at the thought of how fast you are travelling, all the time rooted firmly on the spot.
If you want a puzzle to mull over whilst you’re there, here’s one I like – the ISS, or International Space Station.
Measuring almost 110 meters long and 73 meters wide, the ISS is about the same size as a football pitch, looping around Earth at 17,500 mph.
This is what puzzles me: I’m out in the wilds at night, on the shadow side of The Earth, looking up at a football-pitch sized structure that’s whipping across my field of view at nearly 5 miles per second.
And the ISS is not self-luminous, but it still appears as a bright dot traversing the sky.
So I’m wondering how it is that I can see an unlit footie pitch 250 miles away, in the dark, as it wazzes past at seventeen and a half thousand miles an hour?
Buggered if I know, to be honest; but it seems to be incredible unlikely to me - how about you?
© Neil Cowmeadow 2019
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