Saturday, September 4

Grade School Science

I understand that not everyone loves science as I do but . . . I have a really hard time understanding how people think that by being higher in elevation makes the stars in the sky look closer because you are closer to them.

The stars in our sky are billions of light years away. Thinking that being at 1,500 elevation (vs. sea level) brings you closer to them is like thinking that moving your big toe forward 1/4" while standing in San Francisco makes the Statue of Liberty in New York look closer (and, frankly, that 1/4" move of your big toe would bring you considerably closer to the Statue of Liberty than a 1,500 elevation increase would bring you closer to the stars . . . any star . . . including our sun).

The nearest star, technically, is our sun. The sun is 93,000,000 miles away which is 491,040,000,000 feet away.  So, by raising your elevation to 1,500 feet, that brings you .0000003 times closer to the sun.  That's 3/10s of a billion times closer. To calculate this in relation to other stars, add many, many, many more 0s to the front of that number.

Being higher in elevation, here on earth, means that the atmosphere is thinner which does have an impact on how you might see the stars. Also, if you're away from city lights, you'll see many more stars but . . . the stars are not closer. And your being technically closer to the stars doesn't impact anything because you're a fraction of a number which is so large that it doesn't have a name (that I know of) closer. Something like:


percent closer. And even that number is probably low.

The scary thing is, I know many, many people who think that you see more stars higher up cuz you're closer or that you get sunburnt faster because you're closer to the sun, etc.  I've given up trying to explain this to people but, it never ceases to amaze me.

1 comment:

Jenny Robin said...

I remember a time many years ago while driving on the highway I couldn't read a sign that was still a bit far away, and both my sister and I leaned forward in our seats to get a better look. At 65mph, leaning forward to see something better is inconsequential.

We had a good laugh over it at least.