Long ago when I would look at the sky, I would wonder what's so intriguing? I thought Bollywood had just overrated the idea of stargazing and night skies. The Universe just looked fine to me, nothing alluring. Our solar system contains 8 planets revolving around the ‘Sun’. This reminds me of the time I believed there were 9 planets in our solar system, you guessed it right, well if you did. I thought the Sun was a planet too! I sense some thought I was going to say Pluto but sorry pluto didn’t even exist for me! I feel nothing but embarrassment at this moment. But could I be blamed?
I mean, I grew up with these stories of a snake holding our Earth. Heaven forbid if my mother finds out that I called it snake, she would probably loose all her hopes in me. Science as she feels is pernicious for humanity. It has only detrimented our lives, and the irony is she doesn’t even cook ‘chapatis’ without the help of a roti maker. I reckon my topic of discussion here isn’t how my mother influenced my thinking, So let’s go back the Universe. For thousands of years we believed that the Earth was at the center of the universe. Can you believe humans lived thousands of years astray, thinking that they were the center of everything? We are special but only in our mother’s eyes!
It took us several centuries of continued observation and research to discover the truth that the Earth and all the other bodies in our solar system actually revolved around the Sun, which, as a matter of fact is a part of much larger disk of stars called Milky Way galaxy. Milky Way is really really really big! It has more than 100 billion stars in it, the Sun being one of them. Sun just as our Earth revolves revolves around Milky Way. It takes around 250 million years (known as ‘Galactic year’) for our sun to take round around the Milky Way. Earth only take a year and nothing much changes. However, the last time our solar system was in this position in the Milky Way, there were still dinosaurs on Earth.
The next time, who knows? Humanity might be extinct, or it might have evolved into something else entirely. Our solar system is located about 25,000 light-years to the galactic center and 25,000 light-years away from the rim. So basically, we’re at the spot that’s roughly halfway between the center and the edge. The Milky Way as astronomers suggest has two major spiral arms – Perseus arm and the Scutum-Centaurus arm – with several smaller arms and spurs, and our Solar System is located in a region in between the two smaller arms called the Orion-Cygnus arm and the fact the Milky Way divides the night sky into two roughly equal hemispheres indicates that the solar system lies near the galactic plane.
The galactic plane is the actual mid-plane or center line of our galaxy’s huge spinning disk of stars. And we are located at the exact mid-plane of our galaxy just as we’re understanding our Earth is situated in a habitable zone. At the end, as you can see, the Milky Way alone is a very big place. And discerning our location within it has been no simple task. And as our knowledge of the Universe has expanded, we’ve come to learn two things. Not only is the Universe much larger than we could have ever imagined, but our place within continues to shrink! Our solar system, it seems, is both insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but also extremely precious!
Akruti R Mishra
Writer as 'Cosmos and I'n