On a dark and stormy night, the sun was shining bright, the barefoot boy stood sitting on the grass with his shoes on.
Look mummy...there's a sun up in the sky!
Yes there is. The sun us up in the sky. Or it could be down. Or next to you. It all depends on your perspective, because there is no up in space.
Space...the final frontier.
No, I won't go there. If I did, I would be opening myself up to a can of worms I don't want to open until fishing season. Then I'll use the worms as bait, and ignore all of you.
But space. And the sun. I'm going to do something for you today that no one has done for you in the past. Probably. I am going to try and explain to you how big space is.
First off, let's start with the standard distance that astronomers use. It's called the Astronomical Unit, (AU), and is the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Or, 93,000,000 miles. That's a distance that a lot of people have a hard time comprehending. It's so far that, when light leaves the sun, and traveling the speed of light through space, takes a full 8 minutes to reach the Earth.
On Earth, light moves so fast that for people observing it, it seems instantaneous. It's not, but to our perception, it is. And it takes the light from the sun 8 minutes to reach us. So, we're talking a great distance.
To put a little perspective to the size of the solar system, it's 50 AU from Earth to Pluto. And another 50,000AU to the edge of the solar system.
That's a long way. But our minds have a hard time comprehending distances that big. So I am going to give you something you can relate to to try and explain them.
We need to translate the distance into something we can understand. Something we do every day. Something like driving.
We all drive. Or are driven. So we can comprehend travel by car. So, let's take a road trip. We're going to drive from New York City, to the Sun. Now, this is a purely hypothetical road trip. It's not like there's a highway going to the sun. So, let's give ourselves a hypothetical vehicle that can travel anywhere, at 65 miles per hour.
Now, let's equip our hypothetical vehicle with bathrooms, an auto pilot, and enough food to allow us to drive non stop for the whole trip.
Now, all of us have at some point taken a road trip. And we know how long it takes to get from point A to point B. Some of you have driven from coast to coast. And you know how long it can take.
But driving to the sun will take a long time. A really long time.
163 years, 120 days to be exact. At 65 miles per hour, with no stops. That means you would start off on the trip, and your great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchild would finally arrive.
Someone arriving at the sun today would have had to leave NYC in 1851. 10 years before the Civil War started. 50 years before cars were even becoming common.
You all have calculators, so you can multiply that number by 50,000 to determine how long it would take to reach the edge of the solar system.
But, how much would it cost? In my area, a gallon of gas is selling for $3.59. At that cost, and giving our hypothetical vehicle a 35 miles per gallon rate of consumption, it would cost $9,539,143.37 in gas to drive to the sun.
So, next time you have to drive for half a day to get to grandmas house, remember these numbers and quit your bitching.