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A Matter of Scale

Note: this post was first published on Feb. 22, 2011. I’m reposting it again today because 1. the video creator has since updated the soundtrack, and 2. it’s still awesome.


One of the things that fascinates me so much about the Universe is the incredible vastness of scale, distance and size.

On Earth we have virtually nothing to compare to the kinds of sizes seen in space. We look up at the stars and planets in the night sky but they are just bright points of light. Some brighter, some larger, some slightly different colors. But they’re still just points from where we stand. Even from space, seen by telescopes or by astronauts in orbit….still just points.

But they’re so much more than that, obviously.

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This Asteroid Will Pass Closely on Friday, But No Chance of Impact

All eyes have been on the incoming near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 over the past few weeks, with many speculations of if — and what if — the 50-meter-wide space rock poses any danger to us here on Earth. True, it will come well within the orbit of the Moon, even passing by closer than geosynchronous communication satellites. But it will still remain a very safe 17,500 miles (28,160 km) away (give or take a few hundred miles) and isn’t expected to change its course anytime soon. Even the satellites should all be fine — there’s an awful lot of room out there!

The video above, released by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, features asteroid specialist Don Yeomans who explains what’s going to happen on Friday and why there’s no need to worry.

Still, it’s another example of how we are constantly having our personal space violated by objects from elsewhere in the solar system, and why we need to make sure we invest in methods to identify, monitor, and, eventually, deflect any potentially hazardous incoming bodies. DA14 may not be the biggest asteroid to come our way recently, but it’s one of the closest (and for an idea of just how big it is, click below:)
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A Matter of Scale


One of the things that fascinates me so much about the Universe is the incredible vastness of scale, distance and size.

On Earth we have virtually nothing to compare to the kinds of sizes seen in space. We look up at the stars and planets in the night sky but they are just bright points of light. Some brighter, some larger, some slightly different colors. But they’re still just points from where we stand. Even from space, seen by telescopes or by astronauts in orbit….still just points.

But they’re so much more than that, obviously.

Our planet Earth is big. (To us.) Most of the other planets are bigger. (To us.) Our star, the Sun, is much bigger still.

(Again, to us.)

Other stars, other suns, are even bigger than that. And this video gives a wonderful illustration of just what sort of scale is involved.

Featured on the Astronomy Picture of the Day this video by YouTube user morn1415 shows the comparative sizes of most of the planets in our solar system with our Sun, and then with other stars in our galaxy. It’s a great perspective on the actual scale of those little points of light in the night sky, and therefore the distances that must be involved as well. (And why it’s not so easy to find other Earth-sized planets!)

After all, in the grand scheme of things, we’re not very big at all. (Except to us.)

Enjoy!

Video by morn1415

*yes, there’s no Uranus and the planets (except Venus) are rotating the opposite directions. Don’t get too caught up in the example. 🙂

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