Monday, November 5, 2012

Travel to the Nearest Star - Making it Real

If somebody told you about something that was absolutely real and absolutely true, but it was very, very hard to comprehend or imagine, what would you do?

Would you try to comprehend it? Or would you just sigh and say, "Oh, well," and put it out of your mind?

Try this on for size....

Our star - the sun - is 93 million miles away. That sounds like a lot of miles. But actually it's relatively close compared to the distance to the edge of our solar system, out there where Pluto travels in its orbit. Pluto is over 40 times as far from Earth as the sun. If we sent a spacecraft to Pluto traveling at the speed of 60,000 miles per hour, which is much faster than any spacecraft we've ever launched, it would take 10 years for it to get there.

That's a long way.

NASA photo
You sometimes hear astronomers, NASA officials and space engineers use the phrase "travel to the stars." Well, there are about 200 billion stars in our galaxy alone. And there are over 100 billion galaxies in the known universe. That's a lot of stars. Hard to comprehend. Hard to imagine.

So let's just consider the nearest star, which is named Proxima Centauri. It's 4 light years away, which doesn't sound like much. But 4 light years is actually quite a bit farther away than Pluto. More than 10 times as far. Even more than 100 times as far. No, even more than 1,000 times farther away than Pluto.

Actually, the nearest star beyond our solar system is over 5,000 times farther away than Pluto. I'll do some quick math for you. That record-setting spacecraft I referred to would take 50,000 years to reach the nearest star. That's a truly incomprehensible and unimaginable distance.

Why am I telling you this?

Because the next time you're watching one of those cool programs on the Science Channel and you hear some smart guy say something like "travel to the stars" or "only 4 light years," I'd like you to think about the reality of what he's saying. Even if it's hard to comprehend or imagine.

Because you should try. These smart guys are counting on you to not try. They talk like this about space travel because they want you to buy into their dream of the future so you'll pay the taxes to support the billions and billions of dollars they need every year to pay for more technology. They're counting on two things:

1. That you watch a lot of science fiction, and

2. When they say "travel to the stars" and "our destiny as a race of explorers" and "only 4 light years" you'll think of it as a reasonable goal, not the incomprehensible, unimaginable distance from Earth that it really is.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2012. Building Personal Strength .

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