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By John Jeffrey Hester; et al
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Extra resources for 21st century astronomy
This choice of funding channels the directions in which scientiﬁc knowledge advances and can lead to serious ethical issues. For example, moral judgments about nontraditional lifestyles greatly restricted the funding available for AIDS research during the decade or so after its discovery. More recently, progress in stem cell research and solutions to human-caused climate change have been hindered by widely distributed misinformation on the Web and by constant political bickering. Some critics even carry this view a step further, arguing that scientiﬁc knowledge itself is an arbitrary cultural construct.
Yet even this address is not complete, because the vast structure We all have we just described is only the a cosmic address. local universe. 7 billion years to traverse—and within this volume we estimate that there are several hundred billion galaxies, roughly as many galaxies as there are stars in the Milky Way! 1 Getting a Feel for the Neighborhood The Scale of the Universe One of the ﬁ rst conceptual hurdles that we face as we begin to think about the universe is its sheer size. If a hill is big, then a mountain is really big.
25 seconds Earth Moon VISUAL ANALOGY FIGURE 1. 2 Thinking about the time it takes for light to travel between objects helps us to better comprehend the vast distances in the universe. …the Moon is a little more than a second away,… Times shown are light-travel times. 3 minutes Earth Sun Because of the vast distances in the universe, we’re not showing objects to scale here: they’d be much too small! (d) …the Sun’s distance is like a quick meal,… Neptune …and the diameter of the Solar System, based on the orbit of the most distant planet, Neptune, is a night’s sleep.