Our Cosmic Carnival Ride
The newest Mars rover, Perseverance, launched last July and carrying an array of instruments along with a small aerial drone, has logged 159 million miles with some 133 million miles to go before landing on the red planet on 18 February, 2021. It’s streaking along at 60,000 mph, or a thousand miles every minute (equivalent to three minutes traveling from coast to coast across America). What would that feel like if we could hitch a ride on the spacecraft?
Actually, there would be no sensation of speed at all because we can only sense acceleration or deceleration, not constant linear (or near linear) velocity. There would be no perceptible movement of stellar bodies to give a visual indication, either, simply because every object is so very far away from the spacecraft. Don’t believe it? Need proof?
Well, we're all doing high speeds in several different directions right now, in fact. As the earth rotates, we're moving up to 1,100 mph toward the east just sitting on our couches. That's one direction.
We Earthlings speed around our sun in our annual orbit at 67,000 mph, covering 19 miles per second and we don't even need any ride tickets. That's another direction.
Our whole solar system is orbiting the central black hole in our Milky Way galaxy at half a million miles per hour or 139 miles per second. That’s another direction.
And the entire Milky Way is hurtling through space at 1.3 million mph or an astounding 361 miles per second (equivalent to flashing across the whole width of Florida in a single second). That’s yet another direction (toward the massive Andromeda galaxy).
That makes four high velocity movements in different directions simultaneously.
It's a wild and crazy cosmic carnival ride, yet we sense almost none of it. The only clues we have are the sun and star field daily appearing to poke across the sky as Earth rotates, and the slow change of annual seasons as we orbit our faithful star.
And you thought the Tilt-a-Whirl and the Zipper and the Dueling Dragons roller coaster were adventurous.
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