Seeing the past
The universe is massive and people almost lose perspective on how big space is when we give numbers. We are fascinated by space and all it has to offer, but a cool concept a lot of people don't fully know about is how we can see the past from looking at the sky. Find out more about this amazing concept below.
What we see isn't what is
The amazing thing about the universe is just how vast and large it is. Numbers are thrown around that put things into light on paper, but for us to imagine it becomes almost impossible. The fascinating idea about stars, planets, and phenomenons in space is we are never seeing things as they are, but instead we are seeing the past. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second which is incredibly fast, so much so that we have yet to discover anything that is faster than light. Despite this pure speed of light, 186,000 miles is nothing in the grand scheme of the size of the universe.
When you look up at the night time sky and see loads of stars and planets, what you are seeing is not their present state, but instead the past. Light emitted from stars can take a long time to reach us if they are very far away. There are stars in the sky you look at today where the light that's reaching your eyes took over 200 million light years to get to you. This means that some stars in the night sky could very well have been gone for thousands of years but you wouldn't know because you see the light in the sky. This is a tremendous thought to try and process and for many people blows their perspective out of the water. For all we know, half the stars in the sky don't exist anymore, but we won't know with our physical eyes for millions of years whether that is true or not.
The size and vastness of the universe really puts us in awe of just how small and insignificant we are today. Knowing that when you see the light from the stars in the sky that could have been emitted before the earth was even around is mind boggling. It goes to show that things aren't always as they seem. The sun is another great example, but I don't advise you do this. If you were able to look at the sun with your physical eyes you are not seeing the sun in real time, but instead you are seeing about 7-8 seconds in the past. So if the sun suddenly blew up you wouldn't know for about 8 seconds, then the light emitted from that explosion would reach your eyes. Amazing isn't it?
Other objects in space
Stars are the prime example I used, but we can take this approach with other objects like planets, comets, and various events that take place in the universe. If you are fortunate enough to be in a location that has a high powered telescope you can fixate on certain features and objects, and for this example I'll use Saturn. When I was out at college in my junior year I took Astronomy and the professor had a very expensive, but super high powered telescope on the rooftop for us to use with him present. We located Saturn and it's beautiful rings, but we had to understand that the position we were looking at wasn't exactly where the planet physically was which is amazing. The light emitted from the planet took about 70 light minutes from us, so while it wasn't really a big difference in the grand scheme of things the concept of knowing that Saturn wasn't exactly where we were looking at was a fascinating idea to entertain in my mind.
Events like supernovas or passing comets also adhere to this rule as well. That's the whole idea of this article is that space is huge and all objects that are far away will appear in one location but really be in another. If we see an event through a telescope of a supernova or a cloud or something happening, that could have happened before humans even walked the Earth. Such an amazing concept of looking up at the night time sky and diving into the vast universe is looking into the past blows away a lot of young astronomers' minds. There is a reason why astronomy is so popular and millions of people look up each day to see space, and it's because of fascinating things like this. Seeing the past, knowing how big things are, and knowing about really interesting phenomenons like black holes drive us towards this interesting science.
Look into it
Astronomy continues to grow in popularity for reasons like this, and when you stop to think about just how small we are here on Earth and how big the universe is, you can start to see just what kind of part we play in the cosmos. The thought of light emitted from stars and other objects taking millions of years to reach us is truly amazing and one of the key drawing feelings we have towards space and astronomy.
If you are interested in learning more about space, there are thousands of great resources on the internet for you to take in with knowledge and amazing pictures. Colleges and universities also offer degrees in astronomy so you could consider going to school to learn more about this incredible subject if you felt like it would be a fun hobby to get into, or perhaps even a career to make money from. Either way, people around the world see the night time sky and continue to marvel at its beauty and vastness, and now you know just how amazing a concept it is to look up and see millions of years in the past. The Earth will change and the sky will seemingly never change, so know that when you see stars at a young age you will continue to see the same image when you are old. What an awesome thought, so look up and enjoy the past!