While some people might argue and say that they can indeed visualize the following I imagine most people would agree that you are only visualizing the most ambiguous features as the grandiose nature of the entire thing is just wild. The following update is inspired in massive part by Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s book Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries. In fact you will find a section in the book (near the middle) that discusses the following in very entertaining detail, he has a spunky writing style that I’m envious of at times. However as is common here…I am digressing so back on topic.
For those that don’t know Satellites that are launched into space have two basic functions (permit this gross simplification), you have satellites that orbit the Earth and generally you have satellites (or as one reader reminded me: “Deep Space Probes” for the latter) that are launched as far as we can possibly get them to take pictures of all of the most amazing things in the universe. Before I go further to give you an idea of the distances we are talking here is an image from Voyager 1, it’s called “pale blue spot” or something like that. This is a picture of the Earth, yes that massive orb beneath your feet. It’s one of the most inspirational images I have ever seen:
Credit (for image edits): http://blogs.mie.utoronto.ca/roller/moradian/resource/PaleBlueDot.jpg
I apologize for the large nature of the image but I feel seeing it like this helps keep with the flow and give you a second to just take it in. That right there is a dot amongst a sea of grain and color that represents everything you have ever physically come into contact with and indeed everything you can reasonably plan to physically touch in one lifetime. Quite humbling for me and part of the reason I’m so interested in space travel. I want to see every little dot.
Anyways the point of this is to illustrate the massive distance that these objects travel and indeed that do not even have the fuel necessary to make the distance. Anyone who has spun in a tea cup or a merry-go-round has noticed that the faster the object spins the more their body tries to launch itself at the speed of a tomahawk missile into the nearest hardest object (seriously why do I always hit something like a steel fence). Essentially this sort of thing happens on an absolutely massive scale in space, as an object passes by a massive object, if it doesn’t crash into the object it’ll slingshot via gravitational centrifugal force at very high speeds (the more massive the object the faster the slingshot).
NASA scientists do a bit of magic by sling shooting satellites passed every planet in the solar system to get them soaring out of our Galaxy. This sort of math and accuracy is so utterly amazing that NASA scientists seriously deserve a special day where they all get cake or something. I can barely keep my calendar straight.
At any rate this is only the beginning when looking at the magnificent power of gravity and centrifugal force. In the center of Galaxies like our own there are gargantuan (see Massive) black holes that kick so much ass and take so many names that they can launch entire suns at nearly the speed of light.
So think about that for a moment, imagine something the size of our sun speeding passed our Solar System at nearly the speed of light? Or try to imagine something that absolutely gargantuan soaring passed our solar system at really any speed, it would be an event that would likely be impossible to forget (possibly for very tragic reasons).
This sort of thing seems literally unfathomable, to visualize something essentially a million (That’s 1,000,000) times the size of Earth traveling at speeds that are essentially invisible to the naked eye (for the exception of the blanket of light that would probably cause many confused people to defecate themselves).
It’s food for thought, it reminds us how utterly miniscule we are, and I will go on the record as saying that is in no way a bad thing. We may mock ants but there are quite a few that could quite easily kill a full grown human, humanity has the amazing potential to take its small size and do things on the grandest of scales. We just need to set aside our petty and inconsequential bickering and try to look at the bigger picture.
Otherwise all that will remain is a pale blue dot on the vast galactic canvas.