Man, That’s Far

November 9, 2007

We’ve all heard of the immense distances between our star and our neighboring stars.  But like all near-infinite numbers, it’s hard to get a grip of just how far away everything is.  I regularly read Daily Kos, a political blog site, and it has a regular science writer.  He recently wrote about the discovery of a new planet that has some moons that seem to be in the correct position for inhabitable conditions.  This planet (and moons) orbit the star 55 Cancri, which is about 40 light-years away.  And then DarkSyde, the writer, goes on to say:

To get an intuitive handle on those formidable numbers, consider that if our sun was the size of the period at the end of this sentence, the earth would be a microscopic dot a mere 2 inches away. On that same scale, the two stars in the Cancri binary would be separated from one another by 50 yards, but reside a whopping 75 miles away from the earth and sun! The fastest spacecraft to date would take about half a million years to reach 55 Cancri. And it’s one of the closest stars. Most are much, much farther away.

Whoa.  Man, that’s far.

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