Nine and a half years have passed since New Horizons, a spacecraft launched to take photos of Pluto, was launched. Over the years it has traveled 3 billion miles. For a little perspective, that’s approximately 12,560 trips to the moon; you could travel to Hong Kong from Dallas 369,731 times; or if you’re feeling rather uppity it’s 297,029,702 trips to the strip club from here.
That is to say, it’s a pretty far away piece of space rock. If the sun was only one pixel in diameter, I’d have to have 1,013 screens lined up next to each other to see Pluto. Again, it’s pretty fucking far away.
I’m Ready for My Closeup…
So we’re about to see pictures of it. Actual photographs of something that took 9 nears going 58,536 miles per hour. It will take almost 5 hours for those messages to be sent back to Earth for us to see. It’s a big day in science today, friend. Tomorrow we will have the closest pictures possible of Pluto, for at least a decade, before New Horizons will reach a point of no return and continue barreling toward the cosmos.
Fun fact, we didn’t know Pluto was red. When I was learning about Pluto in school we were certain it was blue and covered with ice. It’s covered with ice, but it’s actually red, so maybe all the science teachers I’ve had in the past can kiss my ass.
So… Why You Should Care.
First off, just don’t be a dick. This is space and it’s bigger than you can imagine. It’s bigger than anyone can imagine or even attempt to imagine. As far as we know, there may not be an end to the universe because modern science can’t see far enough. This is called The Observable Universe, the things we can calculate, observe, and poke with very long rocket-powered sticks. The rest is still rather elusive.
I’ve written before about feeling small. It was in my Definitive Guide to Happiness if you recall. To put it plainly, if I called you a speck in a time and space, I’d be over gratifying your size by a large degree. But just because you are tiny in the universe, you don’t have to feel tiny on Earth. After all, as a species we’ve accomplished many great things. some people are larger than specks. You can be too, but you have to work at it.
I was going to take this in another direction, something about the intentional ignorance of our society, but that was a wee heavy. Let’s stick to good news, fella. We’re doing science!