Friday, October 15, 2004

Distant fires

There was a lot of smoke around today, blown across from bushfires far far away... (I hope). The smoke gave the day an eery sort of feel. It was really hot and dry, which is much easier to cope with than the humid conditions summer will soon be dumping on us. (I hate summer. Every spring I start dreading the arrival of summer, and then every damn year it arrives!)

I could see the sun going down this afternoon - and I mean look directly at it - thanks to all this smoke. It was an amazing sight: a brilliant red disc, about the same size as a full moon.

But the sun is not the same size as the moon, and is actually just a tad bigger:
p82. If the Sun stopped producing energy today, we wouldn’t know about it for ten million years. [...] the Sun is so big that heat and light from its centre take ten million years to filter up to the surface. Then it takes another eight minutes for the heat and light to travel across from the Sun to the Earth.
But don’t be fooled by size:

p96. [...] the Sun itself is nothing special. It is just an ordinary star, tucked away among many billions of stars which form a vast swarm of stars called the Milky Way galaxy. And the Milky Way galaxy is just an ordinary galaxy among many billions of other galaxies that make up the known universe.
- Anthony Wilson, The Science Museum Book of Amazing Facts: Space (London, UK: Hodder Children’s Books,1996).

What a big place it is. As far as the eye can see, plus most of the rest of the universe.