It is ever amazing to this writer how one needs to make great plans and spend large sums to reach the far ends of the world, and even a trip, say to Florida, takes no small change and requires some effort- including deciding if you are flying, driving or walking.
In this age of mobility, we do just that far more than our forefathers would have dreamed, though the Earth remains a pretty big place despite our claims it is a "small world."
This cosmic adventure awaits you every clear night. Without even a telescope or spending a penny, you can feel you have transported across the fantastic spans of space. Yet the sky is not "there" and you are "here." Through all this, we realize we are very much a part of the Grand Plan, traveling our wonderful speck of dust we call the Earth, an integral part of the rotating, revolving cosmos.
OR you can catch what's on the tube- that means TV to you modern flat-screen television lovers without a cathode ray tube on the back of the screen. You can pass time surfing the Web. Better yet, the show above your head outside can have much more to offer and carries no monthly fee!
The next clear night, take a cosmic journey.
First visit the third planet from the Sun- that's the Earth, which if your are standing up, is just a few feet below. (In this case, "look down"!)
For the rest you need to look up. With enough patience, you just may see a meteor. Sometimes called a "shooting star," this is actually a particle or a pebble of rock from space, pulled down by Earth's gravity and vaporized by the upper atmosphere. Meteors are about 60 miles up.
Next look at the Moon; this week, you'll need to look late. Last quarter Moon is on Nov. 25 and rises around midnight. The Moon is about 238,000 miles away.
See brilliant Venus in the western sky during evening twilight. Planet Jupiter, also very bright, currently may be seen rising in the east during the evening. The planets are tens to hundreds of millions of miles away.
Gaze at the canopy of stars, bright and faint. The stars you see many trillions of miles away, measured in "light years". One light year is approximately 5.8 trillion miles.
With a star map showing the late autumn evening sky, look in the area of the sky overhead (the "zenith") at about 9 p.m. (this assumes you are in the mid-northern latitudes). You will need a reasonably dark sky and dark-adapted eyes. Look for a small, dim, hazy patch, much easier to see with binoculars. This is the Andromeda Galaxy, over 2.5 million LIGHT YEARS away and basically the farthest thing you can see with eyes alone.
Page 2 of 2 - Without ever leaving your yard, you have traveled from planet Earth, to a galaxy, by just turning your head.
Notes are most welcome at email@example.com.
Keep looking up!