Delta Astronomical Society walks ‘The Walk’

(Editor’s note: Delta Astronomical Society member Dan Young proposed the project, did the main research, designed the placques and ushered it through the Astronomy Club’s and City Council’s approval processes. The DAS and DDA were the main financial sponsors. DAS member John Burroughs constructed the actual placque holders and Hoegh Enterprises took transfered the full-size designs, text and graphics from paper to the permanent engraved plates. City of Escanaba employees installed the placques at the exact specified locations along Ludington Street.)

By Dan Young

For the Daily Press

ESCANABA – Walk of the Planets, designed and constructed by members of Delta Astronomical Society and recently mentioned in the Daily Press, was completed in the spring of 2002. Fhe 12 stations were installed that May along Ludington Street from Escanaba Public Library to Anderson Funeral Home, near Lincoln Road. The last station at Anderson Funeral Home, is the Space Probe, Voyager I, launched in 1978.

Voyager I is the fastest, farthest object humans have ever made. We located it where it would have been (at our scale of 1 foot = 865,000 miles) twenty years after launch (1998). If one were to locate it today, it would have travelled out somewhere beyond Bero Motors, West on US 2. The actual Voyager space craft is just now entering Inter-stellar Space, past the point (called the Heliopause) where the Sun’s “wind” of energetic, charged particles loses energy and mingles with the stellar winds of millions of other stars in the disc of our Galaxy.

Just think, it takes three decades of travel for the fastest object humans have ever built, just to get out of the Solar System. At its present speed, it would take Voyager something like 40,000 years to reach the next closest star system, Alpha Centauri (but it can’t, because it is going in the wrong direction).

Here’s the stunning part: All the inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) are located on the first block with the Library and City Hall. NASA is planning to send humans to Mars in the next twenty or so years, a journey we expect will take as long as 18 months, in each direction. Along the Walk, Mars is just a few feet away. Pluto is over a mile away. That’s just the Solar System. Imagine the distances that Interstellar travel entails.

Light travels at 186.000 miles per second. It takes light from the Sun 8 minutes to travel the 93 million miles from the Sun to the Earth. The next closest star is about 4.2 light years away. In a year, light travels about 6 trillion miles (about 25 trillion miles). A Trillion is a Thousand Billion. A Billion is a Thousand Million. A Million is a Thousand Thousand. A Thousand is Ten Hundred. It boggles the mind.

Most of the Universe is just great, yawning emptiness, so vast that it is truly beyond comprehension. Walk of the Planets is an effort to put some practical sense to such extraordinary numbers. Along Ludington Street, it is possible to walk across the Solar System in a little over a mile. Keep in mind that each pace taken is about 1.5 million miles.

When Walk of the Planets was designed, it was one of only four such scale models of the Solar System in the entire USA, and it was the only one that represented the entire Solar System and could be easily walked. This is a unique and valuable scientific resource to Escanaba. All area residents and visitors are invited to downtown Escanaba to “Walk the Walk” (of Planets).