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Appalling Depths Of Space

Distances that Stun the Mind and Baffle Comprehension.

The stars, though appearing small to us because of their immense
distance, are in reality great and shining suns. If we were to escape
from the earth into space, the moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and eventually the
sun would become invisible. Mizar, the middle star in the tail of the
Great Bear, is forty times as heavy as the sun. To the naked eye there
are five or six thousand of these heavenly bodies visible.

Cygni is the nearest star to us in this part of the sky. Alpha Centauri,
in the constellation of Centaur, in the Southern Hemisphere, is the
nearest of all the stars. The sun is off 93,000,000 miles; multiply this
by 200,000, and the result is, roughly speaking, 20,000,000,000,000; and
this is the distance we are from Alpha Centauri. At the speed of an
electric current, 180,000 miles per second, a message to be sent from a
point on the earth's surface would go seven times around the earth in
one second. Let it be supposed that messages were sent off to the
different heavenly bodies. To reach the moon at this rate it would take
about one second. In eight minutes a message would get to the sun, and
allowing for a couple of minutes' delay, one could send a message to the
sun and get an answer all within twenty minutes. But to reach Alpha
Centauri it would take three years; and as this is the nearest of the
stars, what time must it take to get to the others? If, when Wellington
won the battle of Waterloo, in 1815, the news had been telegraphed off
immediately, there are some stars so remote that it would not yet have
reached them. To go a step further, if in 1066 the result of the Norman
Conquest had been wired to some of these stars, the message would still
be on its way.

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