Mapping the solar system

A nice map of the solar system and the satellite missions that we’ve used to explore it from National Geographic (click to enlarge):

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And yes, when you click through it, you see it’s a huge map. But it’s not really an adequate representation of the size of the solar system.

Click here to go through a scale model map of the solar system, using as the scale our moon the size of one pixel. And then you’ll see that despite the billions of stars and planets in the night sky, we are really in the middle (?on the edge?) of nowhere.

Once you go through that vast, seemingly endless, map of nothingness, think what your reaction should be to this observation:

Now some SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) researchers are pushing a more aggressive agenda: Instead of just listening, we would transmit messages, targeting newly discovered planets orbiting distant stars. Through “active SETI,” we’d boldly announce our presence and try to get the conversation started.

Naturally, this is controversial, because of . . . well, the Klingons. The bad aliens.

“ETI’s reaction to a message from Earth cannot presently be known,” states a petition signed by 28 scientists, researchers and thought leaders, among them SpaceX founder Elon Musk. “We know nothing of ETI’s intentions and capabilities, and it is impossible to predict whether ETI will be benign or hostile.”

My reaction? Doesn’t matter if they’re benign or hostile. It would take them forever to get here. So send the signal, which would travel at the speed of light and take years to get to the next galaxy. At the worst, we’ll just end up crank calling each other. (Hey, Boba Fett! Is that a ring around Uranus? Yuk, yuk, yuk.)

Meanwhile, the Web site Vox has plenty more space map thrills for you.

Obama in Selma

On March 7, 1965, about 600 people gathered to march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

This is what happened:

It’s important to remember the history to fully appreciate Obama’s words. Some of us are old enough to remember when this happened. A lot of us weren’t even alive then and see it as ancient history.

Fifty years is a lifetime. But for some of us who watched the persecution and the beatings on television that night a half century ago, it really was only yesterday.