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Location: TUCSON, Arizona, United States

Thursday, June 06, 2013

It's not a universe...

Recent interferometry and parallax studies have shown that our sun is orbiting through a local arm of the galaxy we call the "Milky Way." We call it that because the view from earth toward the center mass appears as a semi-opaque band in the northern hemisphere summer night sky. It wasn't until 1929 that Edwin Hubble proved our solar system was just an element in this one galaxy among billions. So what humans imagined was one thing--a "universe"--is not. Add to this the fact that he sun, and therefore our solar system, takes 240million earth-years to orbit the center of the Milky Way once: ten times the period it's been since humans began to evolve. On this scale, the 500 years since Galileo initiated the telescope-era means the earth's position has barely changed at all. And it takes light a thousand centuries just to cross our galaxy. Longer than we know there have been humans self-conscious enough to look up and wonder. I wonder whether humans will be around for one full orbit...


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