My ESA Letter



Christian folklore claims the Man in the Moon is Cain, the eternal Wanderer, doomed forever to circle the Earth. In addition, there is a Talmudic tradition that says it is the face of Jacob etched out on the gleaming lunar disk. The Solar System forms a tiny part of the Milky Way Galaxy, a vast conglomeration of stars and planets. What makes astronomy so thrilling is that despite its size, the Milky Way is not the only galaxy in the universe. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies out there, probably more. The closest galaxy to our own Milky Way is Andromeda. Now, brace yourself for the distance: it is 2.3 million light years away. One of the most exciting phenomena for astronomers is the black hole. It is an area of the universe where the concentration of mass is so massive (no pun intended) that the gravitational pull it generates sucks in everything around it. Everything includes light. Remember that the escape velocity for any object in the universe is the speed required to escape the objects gravitational pull. The escape velocity for the Earth is slightly over 11 kilometers per hour while for the Moon is 2.5 kilometers per second. Well for a black hole, the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light. That is how strong the pull is. A Lunar Eclipse is when our blue/green globe saunters between the trusty moon and glowing sun, our planet completely blocks the luminous rays of the sun but the moon remains visible.