Friday, January 26, 2007

Looking Across The Planets

This is Thursday’s blog, done a bit after midnight.

I was on the ship one evening, just before sunset. As I sat there in the Lido buffet room, with my endless mug of tea and things to read, I watched the sun heading toward the horizon, I imagined the planets Mercury and Venus circling in this almost flat plane. Maybe they were between us and the sun, maybe they were way out on the other side.

I sat there for quite a while, taking this all in. How often are you in a position where you can see right to the end of the horizon? There lay the sun and, somewhere between us and it, a couple of planets. You are looking across the solar system, wondering if someone out there even further is looking across more planets toward the sun.

The sun has been burning for something like 16 billions years and maybe longer. It has quite a while yet to go as it turns its gas into fire and light. Some day, it will become a giant and expand out to about where we are now. That’s not particularly good news for those of us on Earth, but since it’s a whole bunch of hundreds of million years from now, it’s not worth getting worried over.

Astronomers think that the universe might expand forever. Well, at least for so long a time that we can use the word “forever” without fear of correction. Anyway, it will expand to such an extent that galaxies will move out of sight of telescopes, and even break apart internally. Stars and their planets will wander off and eventually everything poops out. But that’s a long way off, so don’t run out to buy bread and milk.


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