Changing the Lenses


Much has been made about the super large moon we've seen lately. While Megamoon is beautiful to look at, I am also struck that our perception changes so much, so quickly. Spending a night watching the Moon race across the sky feels wonderful in part because we can see some of the fundamental processes of our universe at work in just a few hours. Really, at moonrise or moonset, we can notice those processes in a matter of minutes.


In astronomical terms, it's stunning that an object so close in size as our Moon is to Earth is also so close to us. The Moon is a quarter of the size of the Earth. However, the Moon and Earth are incredibly far from each other in our terms. The distance between the two objects is something like 250 000 miles. Going a quarter million miles in a car means you talk to your friends about how great your car is and how many years it took you to go that far. In the late 60s it took 3 days for Apollo 8 to travel that distance. 3 day! Is that incredibly fast or incredibly slow?


I recently had a conversation prompted by something I read on Wikipedia about Sedna, the most distant sizable member of our solar system. I acknowledged that I was overwhelmed by how far away Sedna is from the Sun. Sedna is now about 3 times as far from the Sun as Neptune, but at times, it is 32 times as far! At that distance, how could the Earth and Moon be viewed as anything but a singularity?


Close. Near. Fast. Slow. These two celestial relationships (Moon-Earth, Sedna-Sun) make me think concretely about how much our view depends upon the lens we choose to use at any given moment. My guess is that changing lenses impacts our view of our own universes in similar ways. That's maybe even harder to understand.






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