Faster than the speed of a space station

Thinking of highways, a moose on a clear run can get up to 15 metres per second, a whitetail deer up to 13-plus metres per second

Time and astronomy go together, from helping early hunters and farmers determine seasons to helping navigators determine longitudinal position in the middle of oceans. On uncharted land also, as with David Thompson.

Clocks have improved over time to the point where even small atomic clocks help GPS systems pinpoint where on our rotating planet we are, what speed we’re travelling at, and trace our highway and backcountry routes. Looking at the sky above, precision is cost-saving; pointing at a tiny far away object at the wrong fraction of a second requires extra searching. Calculating orbits of new objects (and how close some may come by Earth) needs time exact as possible. Timing can get complex, since Earth wobbles in several ways (not as much as doomsayers worry), and  GPS signals need adjusting for ionosphere fluctuations.

For some interesting time comparisons, let us suppose we are in Invermere and want to have a scenic drive to Fairmont. (Reference pages give varying numbers so all here are approximate.) Let’s say it takes 900 seconds. If we could go as fast as the Space Station (ISS), we’d get there faster! The ISS, at around 7.7 kilometres per second (kps), would take only three seconds! Handy, say, if one is really hungry for Greek food there.

The speed of the ISS may seem fast, but what about some other speeds of objects in space? Voyager 1 moving out into interstellar space is currently moving at 17 kps. The New Horizons probe on the way to Pluto has a very long way to go from Earth, so it was launched at 16 kps, which translates into less than one and a half seconds from Invermere to Fairmont. The Sun’s distant pull slows it down, but at Pluto it will still sail by at 13.6 kps.

Some other speeds to contemplate. Our own home world orbits the Sun at some 30 kps (which means when you see a first-quarter moon, Earth was at the moon’s spot a bit under four hours ago). The silvery Moon sails along at a mere 1 kps — still a quick trip to Fairmont. Mars orbits at 14 kps, Jupiter at 13 kps. Our sun? It whirls around the galaxy a bit faster  at 230 kps. If the numbers are correct, this means about a one-tenth of a second trip to Fairmont. If you want faster, look at Andromeda galaxy, east of square-shaped Pegasus coming up these evenings. That galaxy and ours are approaching each other at some 300 kps. Try calculating time to Fairmont at that speed.

Back to Earth and more leisurely speeds. Thinking of highways, a moose on a clear run can get up to 15 metres per second, a whitetail deer up to 13-plus metres per second. Slower than the ISS? Still interesting to contemplate. Moose and deer have their own schedules, but the ISS starts showing up again in the evenings by mid-October. See www.heavens-above.co.

Brian Fenerty is a semi-retired valley resident and an esteemed member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Contact him at fenertyb@telus.net.

 

Just Posted

The end of an Echo
The end of an Echo

Invermere Valley Echo shuts down operations in Columbia Valley

Creating a new narrative for Canal Flats

Economic development consultant hired, lists vision for next 90 days

Princeton wildfire phots courtesy of Debbie Lyon.
UPDATE: Crews battle as wildfires rage in B.C. Interior

Crews brace for another day on B.C. firelines as no let up is likely

VIDEO: B.C. wildfires by the numbers
VIDEO: B.C. wildfires by the numbers

Wildfires continue to engulf regions of B.C.’s forests and communities.

Aerial view south of Williams Lake Friday afternoon shows dry lightning storm passing over, leaving fire starts behind. Lightning sparked more than 100 new fires Friday. (Black Press)
VIDEO: More than 180 wildfires burning across B.C.

Firefighters from other provinces called in to assist

DTSS Grad March 2017
DTSS Grad March 2017

DTSS Grad March 2017

59 cats seized in Chase
59 cats seized in Chase

59 neglected and injured cats were seized from a property in Chase

(Flickr/Andreas Eldh)
Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell dead at age 52

The singer/songwriter passed away early Thursday morning in Detroit

Paying tribute to a primeval passage
Paying tribute to a primeval passage

Uninterrupted celebrates the Adams River sockeye run in an extraordinary way.

UPDATE: Pemberton Music Festival cancelled, no automatic refunds
UPDATE: Pemberton Music Festival cancelled, no automatic refunds

In the past, the music festival located in Pemberton drew large crowds last year of 180,000 fans

Photo by: WeissPaarz.com
Medical wait times cost B.C. patients $2,300 each

New Fraser Institute report places B.C. at second worst in costs associated with long wait times

UPDATE: 22 killed at Ariana Grande concert
UPDATE: 22 killed at Ariana Grande concert

Witnesses reported hearing two loud bangs coming from near the arena’s bars at about 10:35 p.m.

A university study finds that about nine per cent of Canada’s Grade 11 and 12 students – roughly 66,000 teens – have driven within an hour of drinking and 9.4 per cent drove after using marijuana.                                 Photo: Now-
Leader file
One in three Canadian high school students have rode with drinking drivers, study reveals

Nearly one in five rode with a driver who’d been smoking pot

Top court to hear federal government’s appeal on residential school records
Top court to hear federal government’s appeal on residential school records

A lower court judge ruled to destroy the stories after 15 years unless consent is given to preserve

Most Read