Horace Guglielmini Gives a Cosmic Geography Lesson to Rossi

So we start with a question: “How does the Universe look today? Now, to answer this question, we must start with things that are near to us, and gradually expand our look to the vast and immense spaces of the Universe.

To begin with, let’s try if we can see, almost feel, the curvature of the Earth. This has a diameter of almost 13 thousand kilometers. Imagine now a flat terrain with no obstructions. In the distance we can see the top of a skyscraper. If we lengthen this image 70 or 80 Kms, we would be able to see 400 or 500 meters below the horizon, at this point, we have the feeling of the curvature of the Earth. Then, if we raise our eyes, to one hundred kilometres above the Earth, both a cotton swab and a crystal ball move through space, gracefully, at the same speed, free from the earth’s gravitational pull.

 At this point, in the blink of an eye, we see the Moon, a second light that is 300 thousand kilometres away. Then, 150 million kilometers or 8 light-minutes away, we find the sun, with a  diameter of more than a million Kms, and consumes about 4 million tons per second of its fuel efficiency. In its core, elements boil at 15 million degrees centigrade. Even on the Sun there are rivers, not of water, but of incandescent plasma. They are over 30 thousand kilometres long, and 40 thousand are wide and deep, and run about 140 km / h.

This huge ball of fire, accompanied by at least a dozen planets, orbiting the Milky Way at 240 km per second and takes between 200 and 250 million years to complete one revolution. The star closest to the Sun, Proxima Centauri, is  4 light-years away; while another star close to Earth, Barnard’s star, is 6 light-years or approximately 46 trillion Kms away.

Then we have the Milky Way, our galaxy, our home in the cosmos, with a diameter of 100 thousand light years. We (earth) are located 30 thousand light years from its center. In the Milky Way there are an infinite number of stars and, among them, in one of the spiral arms of the galaxy, the Sagittarius arm, is our Sun. And perhaps at this very moment, the Milky Way is giving birth to another child, another sun, and  around this new star there might be another Earth, another species, another life!

The galaxy closest to our own, the nebula of Andromeda, is two million light years away. The light from Andromeda takes 2 million years to reach 2 million years back in time. If we had a powerful telescope, Rossi, we could see up to 15 billion light years, away, or back in time, almost to the big bang, to the origin of our universe, and our birth, that singular, primordial explosion that decided our arrival and in fact our fate.

And so, my friend, in the evening before going to bed, go to your balcony and look up towards heaven, towards this great dome illuminated by innumerable lamps. Near one of those distant twinkling dots where your eyes fall, someone, perhaps, like yourself, but not necessarily like you, in that instant, too, before going to bed, enchanted and thoughtful, could also be looking at the night sky and watching you, inside of this vast universe full of life and wonderful and amazing things.

In this cosmic forge, where the physical process is developed, where we shape ourselves, concepts and things, there are no strangers or strange things. Wherever there are planets stars galaxies, we too are there, because we are made of the same matter of stars and, as the old saying goes, “the stones and the stars are our sisters and brothers.

Translated from the book “Has life meaning”.


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