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Thoughtful about the Milky Way – Harlan Daily



I hope that each one of you had the opportunity to be in a really dark place on a clear night and see a shimmering, thin, mist-like strip of light across the sky. Things are going very high at this time of the year. It helps to adjust your eyes to the darkness before you try to see them, and any street lighting or the moon ruin your chances.

What you see is the view of your home galaxy. The stars of our galaxy form a broad, flat disk in which the sun and the earth are about two-thirds of the way from the center. When we look into the disk, we see the combined glow of millions of stars forming the line of light called the Milky Way.

The number of stars in the Milky Way can be estimated at best, but it could be as high as 300 billion. The discovery of planets around other stars (over 2000 to date) has led to speculation that most stars have planets around them and increase the chances that there will be other lives out there looking at our star and themselves ask if there is life. The size of the Milky Way is incomprehensible. The book's response is that the disc measures 1

00,000 light-years, and since one light-year is about 6 trillion miles, we just want to hold it and say it's really big.

The Milky Way revolves around its center and around our location the disk rotates at around 140 miles per second. In the time it takes to finish this sentence you will have been moved through the 750 miles area. By the time you think about it, you will have covered another 700 miles.

All these considerations can make you feel a bit small. Rejoice, however, that the Earth and all its life forms are unique … at least in the galaxy. In the entire universe is another matter. You see, there are 60 known galaxies for every person on the planet, with each galaxy containing at least 100 billion stars. With these numbers, there can be a planet with someone who looks exactly like you … just maybe with a green complexion … or maybe a third arm. Who knows?

Steve Roark is a retired forester from Tazewell, Tennessee.


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