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Gazing at infinity 'Spaceship Earth'

Updated on June 9, 2019
lawrence01 profile image

The universe is vast and wonderful. It can make us feel so small and insignificant, but it can also make us feel so special that we're here.

Our home the spaceship.

Taken from Apollo 8 spacecraft as it orbited the Moon
Taken from Apollo 8 spacecraft as it orbited the Moon | Source

Take a moment

Astronomy has always fascinated me, ever since that time sitting on the hill at home, watching the enormous telescope I wrote about in the previous hub (Gazing at Infinity) scanning the heavens, listening to the stars and wondering what they were listening to.

Back then was the time when we first began getting pictures of what the Earth, our home, really looked like from Space, and the picture above was one of the first we ever saw of where we truly are in the universe, and what a stunning picture it was.

I don't know about you folks, but back then all we had at home was a black and white TV, colour wasn't all that popular in the UK, but still, the picture was mindblowing!

For the first time, it was like the Earth was a tiny ball, just suspended in nothing, the vastness that was space, but there she was, a tiny rock teeming with life, and reaching for the stars, but at the time I didn't realise that the rock was actually moving!

Stunning views of earth from various spacecraft, will blow your mind!

The Earth as a Spacecraft?

When you think of our world, what do you think of? Is it a place filled with problems? Wars and all that crap raging on as one man tried to dominate another! Is it a place of incredible beauty that just 'takes your breath away' every time you think of it?

An insignificant ball spinning in a vast emptiness that is space?

Just a few ways you could describe this terrestrial ball we live on, but I want to add another, and I want you to stop and think about this for a moment.

The Earth is a Spacecraft flying through the Universe.

Spaceship earth

Right at this moment, you are moving in at least three directions, and you're moving at three different speeds.

Rotation of the Earth

Rotating East to West the Earth rotates once every twenty-three hours and fifty-six minutes, it's circumference is twenty-four thousand miles (give or take a few miles) and that means that at the equator the earth is moving from East to West at a thousand miles an hour, the further north (or south) you are from it the slower you're going, but most of us are moving at around six or seven hundred miles an hour.

The orbit of the Earth

We are about 93,000,000 miles from our sun. Our orbit isn't a perfect circle and is more of an egg-shaped thing that we do with our nearest point usually during the 'Southern summer' (around Christmas time) but the Northern part feels colder as it's tilted away from the sun (It was thought that the Earth was tilted at 28 degrees, but recent scientific research has shown us that it's actually the sun tilted, and almost all the other planets have the same angle, the reason we'll see as we get further out into the solar system).

We cover a total of five hundred million miles in the space of a year Roughly 1,300,000 miles a day or 57,000 miles an hour, faster than any spacecraft we have eery built, but we aren't finished!

How do we move through the Galaxy?

Interstellar traveler

We aren't done with the moving, you see our solar system is also moving through the Galaxy, what you see as the planets and stars seemingly moving across our sky is only partly true because we are also moving, and as the video shows we're moving at about 200 miles a second. That's 12,000 miles a minute or just under 720,000 miles an hour!

And we can't feel a thing!

By the way, we might be moving in the same direction for the rotation and orbit of the earth, but for the 'biggie' we aren't. We'd be heading North right at this moment, the planets are heading 'up' out of the Galaxy only to be brought back down by the sun's gravity and flung 'south' to repeat the process every year, that' why the Milky Way appears as a band across the sky.

Our Galaxy, if we were to look at it from the outside would look like a massive saucer, it's a hundred thousand light years across, but only about twenty light years from top to bottom, but the way things are shaped the Galaxy is rotating around what we now think is a supermassive Black hole, we're not being pulled into it, but the Black hole is forcing the Galaxy to rotate around, the further out that you get the Galaxy starts to form arms that we call 'spirals' but here's the strange part, we're not in any of those spirals and it's a damn good job!

Meet the neighbours

A neighbour of ours, the Andromeda Galaxy is the nearest Galaxy to ours, only two million light years away.
A neighbour of ours, the Andromeda Galaxy is the nearest Galaxy to ours, only two million light years away. | Source

Take a closer look

We orbit our Galaxy about once every 250,000,000 years. I'm not even going to calculate how fast we're travelling around the Galaxy, but it's Damned fast (more than a million miles an hour) but we're not in those spiral arms and that's a very good thing.

See, in the centre of our Galaxy, and in the arms the stars are packed so tightly together that the radiation from them is so great that it would be highly unlikely that life could ever develop in those star systems!

But how are we moving?

Where's the engine room?

Every spacecraft has an engine room right, Star Trek has Scotty making sure the Enterprise stays in top form, but where is the Earth's?

We're moving around the Galaxy at incredible speed, we're moving around our own solar system as well, but where is our engine room? what is driving our movement?

Isaac Newton discovered what later became known as the law of Gravity, and it's not just 'What goes up must come down' He discovered that as an object spins it creates a force that once accelerated fast enough becomes an 'attracting force'

It's the size or 'mass' of the earth and its spin that creates the force that keeps us on the planet, but it's also Gravity that keeps us in the right place around the sun to allow us to enjoy the warmth of its rays, the size or mass of the earth' along with the force that flung it into space in the first place is what keeps us far enough away for life to occur and stay on the planet.

That Gravity also keeps our sun revolving around our Galaxy AND prevents us from entering those dangerous areas in the spiral arms or the centre of the Galaxy.

This is just one of the amazing things that work in our favour for life on Earth!

But another key is that the gravity can't be too great, there are thresholds that once crossed the force becomes too great for life to be able to develop, and as far as we know Earth is the only place in the solar system where that force is just the right amount, not too much and not too little.

And where are we going with this?

I've got to come clean here before we go much further, spend a few minutes listening to most people talking about the stars and you'll end up thinking life could develop anywhere in the Galaxy, and that just like Star Trek life is rampant throughout the universe, but the reality is very different.

So far we've only explored one thing that is vital for life to develop, and it's not one that's normally talked about, normally they list things like 'The Goldilocks zone' or the presence of liquid water and leave you thinking that life is everywhere, but reality is that scientists know there are around two hundred criteria for life to even begin to develop, and as we go into it we're only going to find one planet that we can find (and we've found over two thousand outside of our own solar system) that fits all two hundred of them, and you're standing (or sitting) on it!


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    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      12 months ago

      Yes, exactly. I believe from Mars the Sun appears like a bright star.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      12 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      In the same way that without a Telescope Mars and Venus (from Earth) appear the same way.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      12 months ago

      As I understand it from Mars, Earth appears as a star.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      12 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Thank you. I wanted to start exploring how wonderful, yet fragile our home really is, and also a bit about what it will be like when we take those first steps to start to colonize a new planet.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      12 months ago

      This article does a great job of pointing out the wonder of space travel on this planet of ours.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      14 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      So true, though often he seems to 'get that line' in the movies.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      15 months ago from Fresno CA

      Gravity is a pretty carefree engine room; Scotty doesn't have to worry about this engine "blowing".



    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      17 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I think you're right about the 'many more planets' that will certainly have potential, I'm just about to put a hub together about a 'celestial body' close to Earth that we used to call an 'Asteroid' that scientists think may have been a place with the potential for life of some form.

      Give me a couple of hours to write it though.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      17 months ago from Traverse City, MI

      When the James Webb telescope is deployed, I believe we will add many more planets to your list of those we believe could support life. But we also have to be a little humble about this topic. There may be life forms that are not carbon-based as we are. If that is so, we may look right past them. I love this series, Lawrence. I know I've missed most of it, but I have gotten two of them read. Good work.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      23 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Thank you. I just wanted to tell people a little of what it was like sat on that hill, watching the telescope explore the heavens.

    • Rhyme Vine Poetry profile image

      Tamara Yancosky 

      23 months ago from Uninhabited Regions

      So much excellent information and research you have done, Lawrence. Your post will come in useful for many generations to come, by all ages alike! Well written, and stunning photos, as well.

      Big hugs,


    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      These are just a couple of the things that have to happen for life to even occur let alone for complex life forms to appear.

      A recent study concluded that its likely Earth is the only planet in the universe where this has happened. I agree with you, there are just too many variables for it to be by chance.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      It's amazing, Lawrence. Things aren't in place by chance. The odds of things just happening are "astronomical" (pun intended).. Thanks for all the research on these hubs. Great job!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Yes, I saw that Lawrence. I will be over to read that soon.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I thought you might, I just finished part two that deals with 'shields'

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Lawrence, I have also always been fascinated by astronomy so I found this a very interesting read, especially from your perspective of the Earth being a spaceship.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Glad you enjoyed it.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Thats what I think too! The precision with which everything works and how it means that life can exist right here and now, that can't be 'by chance'

      We'll be looking at a few more things that make Earth special before we look at the rest of the solar system.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Same here, it constantly amazes me just how much detail our heavenly father went into with creation.

      As the song says, "He made the stars to shine. He made the rolling sea. He made the heavens high, and he made me."

      Glad it spoke to you.


    • M Hasham khan profile image

      Muhammad Hasham khan 

      2 years ago from pakistan

      Wow,a lot of information about Earth.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      So do I! And I wish I had the time to devote to it. I did have a small telescope up until about a year ago, but lack of use meant it had to go.

      Reading about some of what we've discovered leaves me with a sense on wonder.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      There are so many thoughts on that. One hypothesis is that the whole thing is a cylinder shape or ball and there is 'no end' as eventually you come back into places you've already seen.

      One fascinating part is scientists have a problem with a few stars as the methods they use for working out the age of stars gives their age at a half a billion years older than the universe! And one of them is an interstellar neighbour at only a hundred light years away!

      But all that is for future hubs.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      An awesome Hymn. I'm glad the two went together.

      When you see the precision with which things are put together you just have to marvel at how great he really is.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Fascinating. Isn't it beautiful how everything works together? Synchronicity like this cannot be mere chance, an accident. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      2 years ago from United States

      I love astronomy too. This was a wonderful read. I can't help thinking about our Creator God who made the heavens and the earth with such precision and complexity. Thanks for a great Sunday afternoon read.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It is fascinating stuff for sure, Lawrence. I just wish I had a high-powered telescope and the time to devote to looking at the galaxy. Great stuff here.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      2 years ago from Chicago Area

      I'm fascinated by astronomy, too! It's incredible the speed at which we are hurtling through space without even realizing it.

      What's really mind blowing for me is to think what's at the edge of the universe.

      Thanks for sharing the wonder!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I just turned on "How Great Thou Art" by Elvis. For some reason this lead me there. All to the good bro. Muchas Gracias. 'The Heavens' and Havens.


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